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      Keeping your chimney safe from fires

      "Well, we were sitting here watching the football game, and we heard some snap and pop," said homeowner, Tom Sprague. "You could hear it coming from the stovepipe, so I pulled the stovepipe so I could see in the chimney and had flames."

      It happens more often than most think. Chimney fires are common this time of year as the weather encourages people to cozy up around the stove.

      Tom Sprague ended up calling the Chassell Fire Department when a fire unexpectedly flared up in his stovepipe.

      "I didnâ??t have any flames coming out of the top, and there wasnâ??t any smoke coming in from anywhere," Sprague said. "I wasnâ??t really too worried, just wanted it out. The brick was starting to feel warm, so it was going for a while. Better safe than sorry."

      Dan Riutta, owner of Dan Riutta Contracting, was called to Spragueâ??s house to inspect the chimney after the incident.

      "Thereâ??s possible seepage of creosote in there, and youâ??d get a much better job if you rebuild that portion," said Riutta to Sprague.

      Riutta says itâ??s a common occurrence but 100 percent preventable. When you burn a stove or fireplace thatâ??s not hot enough, it builds creosote up inside the chimney. Creosote is a sticky substance that sticks to the side of your chimney. It can catch fire very easily, causing a chimney fire.

      "It actually builds up during warmer temperatures when people tend to burn their stoves not hot enough," Riutta said. "So thatâ??s why burning the stove hot is very important. You want to have a temperature thermometer on the stovepipe or the stove, and keep it in the proper zone."

      Creosote buildup can also be prevented by having a proper liner installed in your chimney and by burning dry wood.

      For Sprague, the incident was a wake-up call and cautions others to be careful as well.

      "Clean it a lot more often than I was having it done, and keep an eye on it," Sprague said.