Contact 2: Chimney and fireplace safety

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ST. LOUIS – If you love the warmth, sounds, and smell of a fireplace, this is the most wonderful time of the year.

Sadly, these hearth-warming moments can bring heartbreak if you’re not careful. A chimney fire in Waterloo, Illinois destroyed a home earlier this month.

“Lot of times people don’t have their chimney cleaned or inspected. The flue is closed,” said Deputy Chief Fire Marshall Cliff Robinson, Florissant Valley Fire Protection District.

Robinson says fireplace safety involves more than just the chimney. He urges proper clearance from the firebox to any type of combustible and careful cleaning.

“We want to keep those ashes in an approved metal container. One of the most important things we want to tell people is to have a carbon monoxide detector inside the home,” Robinson said.

He says to leave the chimney project to the pros.

“I would go with the professional chimney sweeper, chimney cleaner, and have that done right before you start the initial burn for the year,” Robinson said.

Mike Doorack, the owner of MFI Masonry LLC, says inspecting the structure inside and out, is the only way to make sure it’s safe. He warns the findings can be costly if you’re not careful.

“I would definitely take the time to look in your firebox, see if you see any loose bricks or anything unusual,” he said. “Most of the time, a hairline crack in your clay flue tile does not indicate you need a metal flue liner.”

He recommends asking to see pictures of the cracks and getting a second opinion.

“If you have somebody come out and look at your fireplace and chimney and they immediately turn and try to upsell you to an expensive metal liner kit, these things run anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000, I would be a little leery,” Doorack said. “That should set off a red flag.”

A potentially cost-saving tip and some important reminders to make sure you don’t get burned this winter.

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