Experts provide tips on using fireplaces to stay warm during freeze

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by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on January 6, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 6 at 6:51 PM

HOUSTON – Anybody that has anyone to do with keeping warm is plenty busy Monday, more than they have been in years.

ome of those folks are simply providing the means to create heat, plenty of others are working to make sure that all that heat doesn’t get you in trouble.

Billy Little is all about getting his hands dirty.

“Make sure there are no cracks. No rust,” he said perched 40 feet up at the top of a chimney.

It’s his job, not just to chimney sweep, but to inspect inside and out.

“I’ve seen a bunch of them where they have just come undone,” Little said.

For 20 years, he’s been in the business of making sure that chimneys are safe and like you might think he’s been swamped.

Chimney fires are a significant risk especially when they don’t get used often.

“When they are really dirty you’ll know it is coming down big time,” he said over the whirr of a mechanical vacuum chimney brush.

The chimney he is working on is in pretty good shape, but it does not take much to cause trouble.

“It is kinda like your barbeque pit with the charcoal. It gets that way in your fireplace and when that gets hot that is what will catch fire,” he said.

That is just what happened early Monday when fire crews responded to a duplex on Golden Forest in Houston. That blaze started in the chimney and spread down.

And it happens more than you might think. Last year alone, there were more the 800 heating-related fires in Texas resulting in three deaths and nearly $10 million in property damage.

When there is a chimney fire there is usually one thing investigators find.

“What we see a lot are chimneys that have not been maintained. They have not been cleaned they have not been inspected,” Assist. Fire Chief Scott Schoonover, of the Spring Volunteer Fire Department, said.

It’s something that most of us don’t even think about, because here the fireplace is usually not about function.

“For me it is more for decoration to look at and enjoy,” Donna Vierling said.

Her fireplace hasn’t been checked since she bought her house three years ago until now. She is choosing to have her wood burner replaced with gas logs that create less heat but are safer.

“It is all good,” Little said after checking out her heating system inside and out.

If you do plan on firing up the fireplace, fire experts say you should be sure to check your smoke detectors and make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector especially if you haven’t had an inspection.

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