This time of year, chimney sweep Rodney Kneller is a busy man, traveling to homes in Springfield, Jacksonville, Lincoln and beyond to inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
“We’re physically cleaning the flue, which is the inside of the chimney,” Kneller said. “We’re physically sweeping that with a brush which is attached to a flexible, nine millimeter rod on a reel. Occasionally we do have to go up on the roof and do the sweep, but sometimes we can actually do the whole thing from inside the house.”
The National Fire Protection Association calls for all chimneys to be inspected once each year, and safety experts warn that failing to inspect and clean chimneys can lead to dangers of chimney fires.
“You’ve got an ingredient in soot called creosote. Creosote’s flammable, so if that catches fire inside the flue, then you’ve got a chimney fire which can reach temperatures up to 2,500 degrees,” Kneller said. That, in turn, can cause a house fire.
According to data provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, chimney and fireplace fires were responsible for 21,200 house fires, 20 deaths and $93.6 million in property damage in 2012, the last year for which data was available.