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Tips to prevent chimney fires, protect your home

Chimney fires can be caused by a buildup of a tar-like substance called creosote. Here's how to make sure your chimney is clean and up-to-date.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Having your chimney professionally inspected annually is the best way to prevent chimney fires. Here's what can cause a chimney fire, and how professionals are equipped to inspect fireplaces and chimneys in your home. 

Chimney fires are caused by creosote. Creosote is a highly flammable black or dark brown residue that is a by-product of combustion and accumulates as you use your fireplace. This substance can be crusty, tar-like, sticky or hardened. If there's enough of it—and the internal flue temperature is high enough and sparks or flames reach it—a chimney fire can start. 

To prevent the fire, have your chimney cleaned and inspected at least once a year, especially if you're using it daily. 

Another important part of chimney fire prevention is to keep your damper fully open. Restricted air supply from a partially closed damper adds to creosote buildup.

Thomas Best, the owner of Tiny Tom's Chimney Sweep and Repair, said you can check for strong air supply with a fast, at-home trick. 

"Open your damper and feel for a down draft," Best said. "Light a little piece of paper and wave it up in there. [Some] people use hair dryers people."

He said the best time to clean your chimney is right after the winter season is over. 

"I typically recommend after the burning season," Best said. "Most professional chimney sweepers are getting real busy in the fall, and we like to take care of our past customers and get new ones in...it's like getting your lawnmower fixed in January nobody; does that. They only wait until they're ready to mow to get it fixed so same with chimney sweeps."

To get your chimney inspected or cleaned and to learn more tips on chimney safety click here.

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