A fireplace is a wonderful amenity in a home, but before you go off and light that first log, its important for association members to remember that a chimney and fireplace require special care and attention to make sure they remain clear of debris and function properly. Without an annual inspection, a fireplace can become dangerous—even deadly.
The Soot's Afoot
In 2003, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were 388,500 reported home fires in the United States, resulting in 3,145 deaths, 13,650 injuries and $5.9 billion in direct property damage. Smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths overall, but in the months of December, January and February, smoking and heating equipment—including fireplaces—caused similar shares of fire deaths.
When was the last time you had your chimney inspected and cleaned? In fact, annual inspections of chimneys, fireplaces, and vents are recommended by the NFPA to prevent fires, carbon monoxide exposure and to ensure safe and efficient operation of your fireplace, home heating system, and solid-fuel appliances.
Ideally, the time to have your fireplace and chimney cleaned and inspected is in the spring when chimney sweeps aren't as busy. However, if you haven't already done so, don't wait till the thaw. There's still time to hire a professional now for a cleaning and to prevent serious problems.
If you haven't cleaned the chimney in quite some time, do not start a fire until your cleanup is completed. Although homeowners might attempt it as a do-it-yourself project, a professional can easily spot structural damage and perform maintenance checks quickly and efficiently, making this investment well worth the cost.