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Stay safe around the fireplace

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LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, GA (WRCB-TV) -- With an early season cold snap upon us, many people in the Tennessee Valley will turn to their fireplaces to keep warm.

Wayne Bodey of Soot Busters has been inspecting and cleaning chimneys in the region for twenty-five years. Unfortunately, he's known of many house fires caused by neglect of chimneys and fireplaces.

"A lot of things take place in a chimney people aren't aware of," says Bodey.

The most common is build-up of soot which often goes un-removed, then heated every time a fireplace is lit.

"That soot starts melting and becoming a galzy residue and eventually it gets like glass and it can't be brushed out. It has to be beat out," explains Bodey.

The accumulation can block or crack your chimney, leading to a fire.

Even if you have central heat and don't use your fireplace much, Bodey suggests to at least have it inspected once a year to determine if it needs to be rid of any corrosive materials or even dead animals.

"Squirrels and raccoons are my common friends in the chimney," says Bodey.

Bodey also says keep furniture and anything else that can catch fire at least three feet from your fireplace. Also make sure the wood you burn is as dry as possible. Bodey says oak and hickory are the best choices.

Christine Smith and her family have already had their fireplace roaring in their Lookout Mountain home in northwest Georgia.

"Traditionally we have a fire every night to gather around," says Smith. "It's cozy and comfortable and we're sort of used to it."

Before moving to her current house she and her family became a bit lax about chimney upkeep.

"We neglected to get it cleaned for a couple of years," admits Smith. Thankfully, they escaped potential fires. In the six years since living in their current house they've adopted a new attitude.

"We have it done every year," says Smith.

Even if your chimney is swept and kept clean, Bodey urges to always have smoke detectors installed throughout your home and a fire extinguisher handy just in case.

"If you have a chimney fire you can just empty the fire extinguisher up into the damper area," says Bodey.

Bodey also suggests building an elevated roof on top of the chimney to keep moisture away from wood while allowing air to flow.

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