Pros Stress Chimney, Fire Safety During Oklahoma Winter


Saturday, December 29th 2012, 7:06 pm
By: Tess Maune


Nearly two dozen fires have blazed in Tulsa in just the past five days. Firefighters say half of those were connected to keeping warm.

Before you throw on your logs and light a fire, having the fireplace looked at and cleaned is key.

The most reliable do that is to call on the age-old profession of a chimney sweep.

"Chimney sweeps been around since the 1600s," Black Hat Cleaning Services owner David Harris said. "They were mostly kids ages between 5 to 10."

Back then, the chimney sweep children would crawl up the chimney to clean and inspect the stack.

Of course, in 400 years, the chimney cleaning industry has made a few changes.

"As time went on, that stopped, obviously, and went to the actually sweeping of the chimneys by adults," Harris said.

However, chimney sweeps still use the same type of brush from way back when.

Harris prefers to dress the part, too.

"A lot of times they'll go, ‘You do wear a hat, you do wear the black hat,' yes I do," Harris said.

While Harris likes to have fun on the job, he takes what he does seriously.

The National Fire Protection Association says chimneys should be cleaned yearly.

There are products on the market to do it yourself, but Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Stan May said those aren't reliable.

May said chimney sweeps are there for much more than cleaning.

"If there's a crack in the pipe or the flue or the bricks, it's not gonna let you know that, so you're gonna possibly have carbon monoxide and heat getting out," May said.

Smoldering makes smoke, which is where the creosote's will be.

Creosote is a chimney's worst enemy.

Harris said it's created when water vapors and oil from the wood mix together and it goes up the stack and sticks to the wall of the chimney.

"If and when you get enough creosote built up and the consistency of the creosote gets from the point of sticky, ticky, tacky to dry, she'll ignite at 400 degrees," Harris said.

And once that creosote ignites, Harris said it can cause an inferno in a matter of minutes.

Harris says a slow burning, smoldering fire produces more cresote.

So the hotter you burn your fire, the cleaner it is.

The best way to do that he said, is to use six to eight small pieces of dry wood.