Fri, 2015-11-20 12:30 News Staff
Chimney sweep offers fireplace safety tips
By LYNETTE SOWELL
Doug Ables said a chimney fire might be fun to watch, but not for the person whose chimney goes up in smoke.
A certified chimney sweep, Ables got into the chimney-cleaning business for a simple reason—he couldn’t find anyone to clean his chimney. He wears the signature black top hat as he works.
With the onset of colder temperatures locally, residents are likely lighting the first fires in the fireplaces, but Ables hopes they’ll keep safety in mind.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends annual chimney cleaning, especially for those who use their fireplaces regularly.
“At least have it checked,” Ables said. “We encourage people to have their chimneys cleaned every year. If they don’t use it a lot, every other year is fine.”
Creosote gets built up in chimneys and smoke is actually unburned wood particles, Ables added. All that material collects on the cooler chimney walls, and when a stray spark goes up the chimney the chances of a chimney fire are high.
Ables gave another fire prevention recommendation for those with fireplaces.
“Just burn wood in them. Don’t throw your wrapping paper in there,” Ables said. “It’s just flimsy paper and it can catch a chimney on fire really easy if it floats up there.” He said a neighbor’s home was destroyed because of burning paper in the fireplace.
Ables also recommended those with glass fireplace doors shouldn’t build a fire and shut the doors. The glass is only made to withstand up to 400 degrees, when a typical fireplace fire temperature can reach 600-800 degrees. He’s seen instances when the glass has shattered from shutting the fireplace doors.
Another area to consider, Ables said, is having dryer vents cleaned annually to remove the lint buildup on the walls inside the vents, especially for families that use dryers regularly. Although it’s not as much of a fire hazard as a dirty chimney, the clogged vents reduce a dryer’s efficiency and can burn out the heating element.
“The dryer will have to cycle a time or two more and use more energy to dry things,” Ables said. “If you can feel the dryer getting really hot, that usually means your vent’s getting messed up.”
He also said some builders continue to run dryer vents under a house’s slab, and his business reroutes those vents under the ceiling instead, for easier access.
In the business for 36 years, Ables said his business is in a time of transition, with his son having plans to return to the area in a couple of years to take over the business. Right now, Ables said his grandsons have been a big help as he goes from job to job.
For more information about Ables Top Hat Chimney Sweeps, call (254) 547-6087, or visit their website at ableschimneysweeps.com. The company has a Facebook page at facebook.com/Ables-Top-Hat-Chimney-Sweeps-149256706321 where they also offer tips and information.