Comox Fire Rescue assistant chief Rick Shelton is sounding the alarm about fireplace safety.

Shelton said maintenance is crucial in keeping your chimney from going up in smoke.

“Have your chimney inspected at least once a year by a professional,” he said. “A lot of people think that they can just get up on their roof and run a piece of wire down their chimney and they’re good for the year and that’s not the fact.”

He said you should have your chimney professionally cleaned and then inspected by a WETT certified inspection company. 

Most certified chimney companies are WETT, which is an acronym for Wood Energy Technical Transfer.

“It’s a company that certifies chimney sweeps and chimney maintenance companies to a certain standard so you know what you’re getting when you call them,” Shelton said.

Shelton stresses that you leave chimney maintenance to the professionals.

“The layman just doesn’t know how to look down a chimney and look for the proper things that may be damaged inside a chimney, especially post-chimney fire,” he added. 

“Chimney fires can get up to 2,000 degrees, most chimneys are not designed to take that type of heat, and they will result in some kind of damage to the inside of the liners.”

He also advises that you use seasoned wood to prevent creosote build-up in your chimney.

Seasoned wood is ideal for two reasons, Shelton said: “First it creates a lot more energy in your wood stove, so you’re actually burning less wood, creating more heat for your house.”

“And if you’re burning the wet wood, it’s very inefficient. And creosote is basically unburned fuel, and with the moist and wet wood that goes up your chimney, it sticks to the side of your chimney and it causes a real sticky glaze, extremely combustible, you put something hot in your chimney (and) up it goes.”

Shelton said there are over half a million chimney fires in North America each year.

“We certainly have seen less of them, and that’s a result of less wood burning, but no matter what kind of solid fuel you’re burning – you have pellet stoves, you have wood stoves, you have hog fuel burners – have all this stuff checked out by a professional, and you’ll have a lot less issues.”