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      Keeping warm without the worry

      It's that time of year when folks fire up the woodstove or fireplace to heat their homes. But things can go from cozy to chaotic if you're not careful.

      The Marquette Fire Department responds to about three chimney fires in every fall season. And each one of them is preventable. For firewood-burning beginners, Fire Inspector Paul Enrietti suggests routine chimney inspections.

      "It's good to check that once a week to see where you're at," said Enrietti. "And then you'll know, how often do I need to clean it--once a month? Every couple of months?" But what are you looking for? Creosote: it's what builds up on the inner walls of the chimney due to cooling smoke. If you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, use a compact mirror to search for sticky, scabby surfaces. Cleaning can be done with a rigid pole and an attached brush.

      "And you could slide that pole up from the bottom and push that brush through," Enrietti said. "You're going to get some things that fall down and make a real mess in the house. So a vacuum would help because it would pull all of that stuff out of the air."

      Alternatively, you could attach a rope to the brush and drop it down the chimney and pull it up. If this all sounds like too much work for you, consider hiring a local chimney sweep or masonry contractor. Some plumbing or heating companies may also be able to help.

      To lessen your chances of any buildups, avoid burning green wood. And a hotter fire is a cleaner fire.

      "Usually the hotter you burn that stove, the smoke is warmer and the chimney is warmer; it'll stay a little bit cleaner," Enrietti said.

      Lastly, smoke detectors can double your chances of survival during a fire. Make sure yours are working properly so that you can stay safe while you're staying warm this winter.