Heating equipment is the number two cause of home fires in the United States after cooking fires. Buildup in your chimney from past use of your fireplace could lead to the kind of fire you don't want.

Wayne Bodey has been cleaning chimneys for 30 years. He says buildup of materials inside the walls over the years can be dangerous and catch fire.

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

It's like having too much kindling and clutter. But don't try to clean your chimney yourself. Have a professional like Bodey clean it once a year before cold weather settles in.

Even if you haven't used your fireplace much, have it checked out. Dead animals and animal nests could be hiding in there and could catch fire.

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

According to the latest U.S. Fire Administration reports, from 2013 through 2015 fires which started in chimneys, flues, or fuel burners accounted for 75% of home fires in the country. These caused an average of $506,000 in damage per year and 203 deaths.

Chattanooga Fire Department spokesperson Bruce Garner says crews deal with a handful of these types of fires each year, especially in the dead of winter. He also says fires in a dirty chimney can spread quickly to other parts of your house.

"You can have a bunch of sparks come out of your chimney and land on your roof, and then you've got a fire on your roof," says Garner.

Besides proper maintenance, Garner encourages everyone to have necessary repairs made to gaps in the mortar between the bricks. These gaps can affect air flow.

"You get hot spots in the wall of the chimney and can start a fire that way. We see those every year, too," adds Garner.

Here are a few more tips from firelighters. Place a glass or metal screen in front of your fireplace. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from curtains, bedding, and anything else flammable. Never refill kerosene heaters while they're running.