RENO, NV--It's a wake-up call for people thinking they'll warm up their house by lighting a fire. A Sparks family did just that Monday night and soon found flames shooting out of their chimney.
Smoke residue can build-up inside a chimney. When it gets hot, it turns into a flammable liquid which can cause some serious problems when ignited.
"Chimneys are made of brick and mortar, it's designed to have a fire down below, but not burning constantly up through the flume," said Battalion Chief Barry Hagen with the Sparks Fire Department.
Repeated burning allowed soot to build-up along the length of the chimney. An evening fire heated the soot and turned it into creosote, which lit it on fire.
"If you have a chimney fire, you literally have an oil going into the air which is landing on your roof, your neighbor's roof, your yard," said Lee Squire of ABL Chimney Sweep. "I run my brushes down the terra cotta or the molded concrete flumes which literally scrapes it all down," said Squire.
The process removes the flamable residue, leaving behind a clean chimney.
"That black right there, that is the residue from what we scraped down," said Squire.
Squire says, if fireplace owners want to keep their chimney clean, they can use a combination of hard wood and soft wood. The hard wood, such as Live Oak, will burn hot, which will drive the smoke out of the chimney. The soft wood, such as Juniper, will keep the hard wood burning.
"With a good fire you are creating your own wind force, it draws it in, feeding the fire and forces it out," said Squire.
Experts say if you are burning wood or pellets, you should get your chimney swept at least once a year.