Keeping your fireplace clean so only the wood burns - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Keeping your fireplace clean so only the wood burns

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SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — With cold weather hitting San Diego lately, many people are warming up by the fireplace.

But because they aren't used often in San Diego, some residents are running into trouble - setting more than just the wood on fire.

Firefighters battled a chimney fire at a Mira Mesa duplex Saturday night.

The residents inside said they had no idea it even started until a neighbor knocked on the door.

"We had a lot of smoke coming out of both ends of the attic," said San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Mike McBride. "It was a pretty involved fire. We had to open up walls, we had to open up ceilings to take out that debris and smoldering embers in the insulation."

Inside, firefighters say they found the chimney long overdue for maintenance

"This one had not been serviced by a chimney sweep or any other maintenance reported," said McBride. "Over time, those things break down. Sometimes the interlocking pieces of flue break down and separate or the fire box itself can degrade on the outside."

More homeowners are using their chimneys during the recent bout of wintery weather, but after months of unseasonably warm temperatures not every one is up to code.

"You can't tell just by looking at a system from visually going 'gosh, everything looks okay,'" said Rick Pocock of Swede Chimney Sweep & Dryer Vent Cleaning. "You don't know until you get in and start to really look at it with a camera."

In the Mira Mesa home, firefighters said it likely didn't start burning the same day.

"This is something that has been smoldering and cooking, so to speak, for a few hours, if not days," said McBride.

Firefighters managed to put out the fire before it spread to the rest of the home, but there was smoke damage throughout.

The three people inside were forced to stay elsewhere.

Firefighters say it's a good reminder to all San Diegans to remember routine maintenance.

"They lose track of how much time has passed and how much they're putting through their fireplace in terms of wood and as a result it gets away from them," said Pocock. "If the thickness of the build-up is an eighth of an inch or more, it's at a point of needing to be swept. I get the impression theirs was way beyond that point."

To find a certified chimney sweep, visit the Chimney Safety Institute of America's website here.

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