Dirty Chimneys Increase Winter Fire Risk - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Dirty Chimneys Increase Winter Fire Risk

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) - Isaac Theisen services chimneys. This year, Theisen said he's had more calls about smoke backing up in homes than in past years. A sign that many chimneys have a dangerous build up of creosote.

"Creosote is a byproduct from burning wood," said Theisen, Chimney Manager at Ledgar Chimney Co. in La Crosse. "It collects into the flue… and it is extremely flammable as well as highly acidic."

During a service call, creosote build up is removed and the interior components of the chimney are inspected for damage.

"It's just like we did back in the early 1900s," said Theisen. "We send a brush through and after we're done with the brush we'll come inside, we'll obviously take a high powered HEPA-vac and clean the interior of it."

He said regular maintenance is the best tool homeowners have to prevent chimney fires, especially since they don't have many warning signs.

"Most of the time when I find chimney fires," said Theisen, "people had no idea they even had them."

La Crosse Fire Department Division Chief Craig Snyder said every winter they get around a dozen calls from chimney fires.

"Anytime we have a chimney fire you can see the sparks and the flames sometimes emitting from the chimney," said Snyder. "And you look and say ‘okay, this might be a very simple put-out.' Once we get into the house we realize that we actually have an entire attic on fire and that can get dangerous for our firefighters very quickly."

To make matters worse, chimney maintenance is often overlooked by homeowners.

"What can happen is if you have a weak spot in your flue or a crack in your flue," said Snyder, "that fire that starts out in your chimney can end up in your attic or in the walls of your house. And therefore now we have a house fire instead of just a chimney fire."

Chief Snyder and Theisen both recommend having your chimney serviced at least once a year. But if you still aren't convinced to get your chimney serviced remember:

"If you run across a chimney sweep it is good luck," said Theisen

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