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Regular chimney maintenance helps prevent potentially deadly house fires

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Posted at 5:44 PM, Dec 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-09 18:44:56-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Residents of a northeast Kansas City, Missouri, house without a gas furnace were using space heaters and a fireplace to stay warm, resulting in a weekend tragedy.

Saturday morning, the house in the 100 block of Wheeling Avenue caught fire and a 16-year-old girl died in the blaze.

"They were going to extreme measures to try to stay warm, and it's this time of year we see a lot of warming fires," KCFD Deputy Chief Jimmy Walker said.

Investigators found cracks in the fireplace flue of the 104-year-old residence, a common cause of chimney fires.

"We realized that the fire started in the walls and actually just crept up through the walls into the attic ...," Walker said. "The older the house, the older the flue, obviously. So, if you don't get those inspected on a regular basis, they can lead to cracks."

Jeremy Biswell's company, Fluesbrothers Chimney Service, performs such chimney inspections.

"A lot of people think, 'Well, it's covered with brick on the outside. That's basically a shell. The inside flue lining and the smoke chamber and the firebox are the important parts of keep everything nice and contained,'" Biswell said.

He recommends having a house's chimney checked at least once a year.

"What we're looking for in there is we're looking for any oddities — maybe any cracks, or any gaps inside the flue liner from erosion or from damage or anything," Biswell said. "And if we find anything like that, we're going to take photos so we can share with the homeowner."

It's also important to inspect the outside of the chimney.

"We're going to check the moisture penetration, because bricks are like big sponges," Biswell said. "They'll soak up a ton of moisture, so we'll check the ability of the brick to repel water."

In addition to an annual inspection, he recommends regular chimney cleanings.

"Not only can the deposits be very flammable, but they can also cause blockages and not allow the chimney to draft as fast," Biswell said.

Those chimney cleanings, just like the inspections, should also be done each year.