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Fire officials urge homeowners to clean their chimneys

By Catherine Hawley, Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 25 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 26 2013 08:55:23 PM CDT

While investigators try to figure out what sparked a deadly fire in Northampton County, they're sounding the alarm for residents to make sure their homes are safe.

LEHIGH TWP., Pa. -

Investigators are still trying to figure out what sparked a deadly fire in Lehigh Township, Northampton County. The blaze that broke out on Washington Drive late Wednesday claimed the life of 65-year-old Harley Henning. Authorities are centering their investigation on the home's chimney. Witnesses say that's where they first saw the flames.

"Around the chimney, on both sides of the chimney fire was seen," described Lehigh Township Police Chief Scott Fogel.

He says township crews have been called to three chimney fires in the last three months.

"All three of them have involved wood burning, wood pellet or fire place type devices," said Fogel.

It's not clear yet if the fireplace is to blame for this latest blaze, but it's enough to sound the alarm for residents to make sure their homes are safe. Officials say the buildup of soot can be extremely dangerous. It's something John Sekella has become an expert at over the last 16 years with his business Blue Mountain Chimney Sweep. He says when wood stoves and chimneys aren't swept and inspected each year the chance of having a fire spikes.

"Creosote is a natural by-product of burning wood, so every time you light a fire you're going to have some creosote," described Sekella. "When soot builds up enough it becomes flammable."

And you can tell the difference. A regularly cleaned fireplace will have soot in dust form, but when they're neglected the soot hardens into chips or glaze. Your chimney should be inspected once a year. It does come with a price tag, but it could cost you more if you chose to ignore it.

"It will keep you safe," added Sekella. "It will provide you most importantly peace of mind."

Sekella says fireplaces need to be structurally sound, and the flue needs to be open so smoke and gasses can escape. If you have questions, or want to schedule services for your fireplace call a local chimney sweep.