MADISON (WKOW) -- The temperatures are getting colder and as a result several people have been lighting fires in their fireplaces and using their chimneys. However, it's important to remember some simple safety rules when it comes to chimneys.
The Madison Fire Department has responded to two incidents in the past week involving fires starting in the fireplace. Fire officials want to remind everyone to make sure your fireplace is clean, properly vented, and structurally sound.
The National Fire Protection Association reports that heating equipment is involved in thousands of U.S. home structure fires each year, with chimneys and chimney connectors accounting for the largest share of fire incidents. In 2010, there were 14,830 reported creosote fires.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America says there are three major common causes of chimney fires. The first are unopened dampers. Many people forget to open them and often they stop working due to water damage or soot buildup behind them on the smoke shelf. Next, issues can be created if your wood is not dry and well seasoned. It makes more smoke than heat and there simply may not be enough heat for the chimney to work properly. The third major cause of chimney fires is dirt. Thick lays of soot can physically restrict the flue so that there is no longer enough free area to vent the fireplace properly.
Fire officials advise cleaning your chimney regularly, including the cap. They say, a reliable chimney sweep can diagnose any design flaws that might cause a safety concern as well.