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Getting your chimneys ready to light up as the temperatures drop this fall | Home Smart

Chimney fires are the leading cause of fires in homes, according to a local expert.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — As the temperatures outside go down, it's time to flip the switch up as we prepare to heat the inside of the home for the autumn months.

"Chimney fires are the number one cause of fires in homes," Matt Freberg, a production manager for Anderson's Chimney Sweeps & Masonry Services, said.

Experts like those at Anderson's have a checklist several pages deep to regularly check and maintain your chimney, regardless of whether you have a gas or wood-burning one.

"We're going to look in your chimney in the camera," Freberg said. "We can see the joints on the inside of the bricks. If there are cracks, it becomes a little more dangerous."

Often, they find a few surprises. If you don't have a cap on top of your chimney, animals like birds and squirrels can easily build a home or get caught inside. Those nests or carcasses can easily start a fire where you don't want one.

An improperly cleaned and maintained chimney can also cause corrosion, as debris becomes acidic to its structure.

Generally, the buildup of creosote is the most common fire hazard in the chimney, which is the most common task for a chimney sweep to handle. You can limit buildup by making sure you use the right type of wood.

"Not pine," Freberg said. "The wood types to be burned should be hardwood such as oak, ash, birch.  Anything hard like that."

Also make sure your wood is properly stacked and covered, leaving just a small portion exposed to allow the pile to breathe.

Now is as good of a time as ever to ensure your carbon monoxide detectors are working with fresh batteries as well. They can often serve as a line of defense against a poorly ventilated chimney, as clogged ones can cause the gas to filter back into the home.

Experts also mentioned that while gas fireplaces are typically more efficient, all of the same previously mentioned issues for wood-burning fireplaces (creosote buildup, structural damage, debris and more) apply. They need regular maintenance and inspection as well.

For a full list of services and things to look out for while maintaining the safety of your fireplace and chimney, you can visit Anderson's Chimney Sweeps & Masonry Services website.

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