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With Record Low Temperatures-Keep Chimneys Safe

With Santa Claus' recent trip to town and the new year's record setting temperatures well below zero, it is time for Northern Arizonans who heat their homes with wood, to clean out the chimney.   

     “The biggest reason to clean your chimney is the health and safety of your home and family,” said Troy Baker of Flagstaff Hearth and Home. Baker not only sells wood stoves and fireplace inserts, but for the past two years, has provided chimney sweep services as well.

     “Burning unseasoned wood is the leading reason for you to have to clean your chimney more than once a year,” said the hearth expert, who has seen an upswing in sales in the past five years. “There are more and more people burning wood.” Baker recommends that readers stop by his store for the free booklet “All You Need to Know about Burning Wood.” It might be a good stocking stuffer for the wood burner on your shopping list.

     According to Jason Brown of HomeCo Ace Hardware, the National Fire Protect Act (NFPA) recommends that chimneys get cleaned and inspected once a year, depending on usage. Brown, who is certified by the National Fireplace Institute (NFI) as a certified wood burning, gas, pellet specialist, suggests that Northern Arizona homeowners have inspections done more frequently. “Check it monthly throughout the heating season to make sure that your chimney is safe,” urged the fireplace department manager.

     “We’ll do a primary inspection and determine the condition of your stove, clean soot out of the cap, write a report and let you know the condition of the chimney and if it needs any repairs. If there has been a chimney fire – which is more prevalent than most people think – the crown on top of masonry chimneys will crack. Many masonry chimneys in Flagstaff are over thirty years old and they are in need of repair.”

     As for stove and fireplace sales, Brown said, “We’re doing better than last year, but not as well as several years back. The market has changed on the stove side from new construction to remodel.”

     Jeff Dent, chief of the Williams Volunteer Fire Department, agrees that chimney fires are prevalent. “We see one to two chimney fires every year in Williams. Sweeping reduces build up of soot and materials that can ignite,” he said.


Environmental Reasons for Chimney Cleaning


     Rose Smith, one of the owners of Bob’s Chimney Sweeps in Sedona and the Verde Valley, said, “Creosote buildup creates a lot of smoke pollution. In both the chimney and flue, the buildup adds up. And creosote is flammable.

     “It is good to keep your chimney cleaned for not only the safety of your house, butcto also burn cleaner.” Smith warns not to burn pallets that are chemically treated. The chemicals “are not good for the quality of the air you are breathing and are not good for the chimney itself.” She further cautions readers not to burn DuoFlame logs that contain chemicals. “You will have a glue substance sticking to the walls of the fireplace and chimney that is really hard to clean.” To burn more efficiently with the least amount of pollution and waste, Smith suggests burning dry, not green wood. “Your best bet is to burn good mixed, seasoned hardwoods. Green firewood takes a lot more newspaper to start the burn and creates more smoke.” Smith recommends that after burning a half to a full cord of wood, “you should have your chimney inspected to see if it needs cleaning.” She adds that newer stoves burn more efficiently than older models.

     The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that by replacing a wood stove manufactured before 1992, you will decrease pollution by 70 percent.

      For those worried about the interior environment of their home during a chimney cleaning, Barbara Wofford of Wizard’s Hearth and Home in Flagstaff and Show Low assures, “The guys will put a six foot by nine foot tarp on the floor and then a tarp in front of the stove. They go to the roof, take the cap off and then sweep the chimney from above. They use a chimney brush like you see in the movies.

     “Later, they use a shop vac – a sealed system – inside so ash will not get into the home. If they are cleaning a fireplace, they close the damper, sweep from above and finish with a hose that is fit to a shop vac. They are careful in what they do. They make sure that the [stove] pipe is tight before they go up and do inspections on the pipe all the way up to make sure that it is connected correctly and is not cracked.” The chimney sweeps keep booties in each truck in case of inclement weather or white carpets.

     Wofford warns that if you don’t clean for Santa’s trip down the chimney this year, “He wouldn’t be red and white anymore. He would be black and gooey – because of the pine wood we have here in Flagstaff, the burned wood produces sap and gets gooey as it goes up the chimney.” The goo coats the inside of the chimney and restricts the airflow. “Santa may not be able to fit,” laughed Wofford. FBN  

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