Prevent chimney fires: Get your chimney cleaned

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CARMEL – A number of chimney fires in recent days throughout Putnam County have prompted fire officials to remind the public that the time is past due to get those chimneys cleaned by a professional chimney sweep.

Commissioner of Emergency Services Ken Clair urged homeowners to get heating appliances serviced. “Winter-like temperatures with night-time lows dropping the mercury to the low-mid 20’s means that oil burners or furnaces become activated. Don’t endanger your life or the lives of your loved ones. Get that chimney and heating appliance checked out this week.”

Ed McCarthy, a former fire department chief and veteran firefighter in Putnam Valley, has fought his share of chimney blazes over the years.

McCarthy called cleaning “imperative to avoid disaster” but he also urged the public to burn the “right type of wood. Burn seasoned hardwood. Burning pine or wood that is wet will build up creosote in the chimney. The hotter the fire the less of a chance of a chimney blaze within the flue.”

McCarthy also had advice for those heating their homes with a wood stove. “Let it rip and burn full bore for an hour or two a couple of times each week. That heat will help clean out the chimney. If a homeowner banks the stove down constantly, he or she is not giving the unit enough air and the result is a coating of creosote in the chimney.”

McCarthy also expressed concern about those who burn paper and woodchip logs commonly found on supermarket and variety store shelves. “The logs contain chemicals and woodchips and are not good for the chimney because they never get hot enough. My advice: Stay away from them and burn real wood.”

Fire officials also have urged homeowners and renters alike to check batteries on all smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors found around the home.