Increase in House and Chimney Fires Expected this Winter

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Due to high fuel costs and expected increases for gas and electricity, the Midwest Chimney Safety Council anticipates more chimney fires this winter due to increased use of alternative heating appliances, lack of maintenance, and poor installations.

There are only so many qualified chimney sweeps to go around, and we don't have enough to serve the public.

The Midwest Chimney Safety Council has issued a warning to its members to be prepared for the busiest fall season in decades. "Chimney sweeps will likely not be able to keep up with the demand for cleaning, inspection, and installation services," said Kirk Scott, President of the MCSC. "There are only so many qualified chimney sweeps to go around, and we don't have enough to serve the public." Chimney sweeps are already reporting that their busy season, which usually starts September 1, started in mid-July this year.

Consumers who cannot afford high fuel costs are turning to alternative methods of heating such as wood stoves, wood-burning fireplace inserts, and wood-burning furnaces. These high-efficiency products should be installed by a professional who knows the codes and is familiar with the installation requirements, but homeowners looking for a quick or cheap fix may attempt to do the installation or service work themselves as they did during the 1970's energy crisis. "One of the biggest mistakes is not installing a properly sized flue liner with a fireplace insert," says Marge Padgitt, Educational Director for the MCSC. "If the liner is too large it can cause excessive flammable creosote accumulation, which can lead to a chimney fire."

Most house fires related to heating appliances are due to improper installation and maintenance, so consumers are encouraged to wait until a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep can inspect and sweep the chimney rather than doing it themselves or hiring an unqualified chimney company. This step alone can avoid unecessary deaths, injuiries, and loss of property. Many CSIA Certified Sweeps are also NFI Certified and are trained to install wood and gas-burning appliances.

Fireplace flues should be inspected and cleaned annually. Creosote accumulates no matter what type of wood is burned. Wood stoves or inserts used for heating purposes should be inspected and cleaned at least twice during the wood-burning season, but some stove manufacturers recommend sweeping the chimney once per month. Furnace/hot water heater flues should be inspected annually for clogs by debris or nests, or breaks or gaps in the flue liner that could pose a Carbon Monoxide hazard.

Visit the MCSC website at http//Midwest Chimney Safety Council for free consumer information.

Contact Marge Padgitt, Educational Director, Midwest Chimney Safety Council at 816-461-3665 or e-mail margepadgitt@comcast.net. Padgitt is available for interviews.

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