Know the risks of using a fireplace

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PHOENIX -- Warmer weather is ahead for Arizona, but there will still be an overnight chill in the air.  Many people will be heating their homes with fires and that can lead to problems absent of a necessary chore.

It was a classic chimney fire in a warm-weather house.  Late Tuesday night a Mesa family had a fire burning when it escaped the metal vent and into the wood structure.

“You have the stucco right there,” explained a fire captain to the home owner.  “It's just basically wood.”

Captain Forrest Smith of the Mesa Fire Department said this scenario isn't uncommon and usually happens when the vent or flue hasn't been cleaned.

“What's happening is that creosote as it starts to increase in heat depending on the size fire you have in there,” said Captain Smith.  “That ignites itself.”

The only way to get creosote out of a chimney is by physically cleaning it and that's where a chimney sweep like George Smith comes in.

“Most people don't know that once a chimney fire starts, it is very difficult to put out,” said Smith.

It is a bit of home maintenance often forgotten because the danger is hidden in the walls.  But it is a project that can save your property, if not your life.

“Before you use the fireplace, make sure you have a qualified chimney sweep come out and make sure it's cleaned out,” said Captain Smith.

A lot of people use Duraflame logs for convenience.  Those require cleaning about 40-50 logs.  Guidelines suggest cleaning after each cord of real wood.  A cleaning runs around $150.