Is my chimney ready for winter? How often should I clean it? Is it safe to use? These are very important questions to ask when it comes to fireplace safety. In our community, many of us rely on wood burning stoves and fireplaces to keep our homes warm and cozy. Often times, it is easy to forget how important it is to have our chimneys inspected and cleaned. As we use our chimneys throughout the winter, creosote and soot build up and can become a fire hazard. The pictures below were provided by a local chimney sweep company, Chim-Chimnee Sweeps out of Evergreen, CO. These pictures show build up that can prevent proper ventilation of the heat and smoke. This build up can cause the smoke to back up into the home or can even start a chimney fire. A proper cleaning on a regular basis will help prevent these disasters. Once the chimney is clean and free of debris, it can be thoroughly inspected. Many chimneys are made of metal or stone and when these materials are heated and cooled, they will expand and contract. This constant movement can cause chimney pipes to separate or stone chimneys to crack. These separations and cracks allow heat and smoke to escape from these locations causing a chimney or house fire. An inspection will expose these weak points, so they can be corrected and made safe once again.