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After fires surge, firefighters urge people to clean their chimneys

Published: Feb. 12, 2021 at 4:54 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Since the beginning of the year, area fire departments have responded to a rash of chimney fires, including four in Manitowoc County in the last two weeks (see related story).

It’s the time of year we all want to be toasty in our homes.

“People, it gets colder outside and they want to feel a little more comfortable, so if they haven’t used their fireplace in a while. OK, chilly night, let’s get a fire going. And if they haven’t had their chimney checked out by professional cleaners, they’re just asking for some issues,” Eric Johnson said.

Johnson is De Pere Fire Rescue’s Assistant Chief of Safety and Training.

He says this time of year, more than one-third of all house fires start as chimney fires.

“Squirrels, raccoons, birds will leave nests in there. Creosote builds up over the year, which is the biggest culprit,” he said. “People assume, ‘Well, I got a fire in my fireplace, a chimney is designed for a fire,’ and it absolutely is not -- it’s a flue; it’s meant just to exhaust the smoke out of the house.”

Johnson says maintenance is prevention, and the best way to prevent a chimney fire is to have yours professionally cleaned every year.

Sadly, chimney fires are often discovered after they’ve spread.

“Typically what will happen is that fire that’s in the chimney will cause the masonry to crack because it’s not designed to have that much heat in it. Once it cracks, then the fire can get going in your attic. You could be sitting at home watching TV in your living rooms below the level of the attic and never even know something really bad is going on,” Johnson said.

Since January 1st, 406 people have died in house fires across the country, including 11 people in Wisconsin.

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