Chimney safety prevents blazes

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany Fire Chief James Carswell and Turner's Chimney Sweep's David Turner believe that with simple preventative maintenance, people can avoid most house fires.

Carswell said there have been "around three [house fires] in the last week" and several others in early December which has resulted in more widespread awareness about the risks involved in heating homes during the winter.

In early December, two out-of-control fireplace fires destroyed property and sent several Albany residents fleeing from their homes.

During the second weekend of December, the Albany Fire Department responded to two devastating fires which caused $180,000 worth of damage to one home and about $28,000 to the other. A third fire gutted a vacant mobile home.

Turner, a 28-year veteran of the chimney-cleaning business, says regular maintenance including have chimneys cleaned and inspected every two years can prevent smoke from depositing "creosote that can build up and cause chimney fires."

Carswell explains that "fireplaces are especially susceptible as they get older."

But fireplaces are not the only dangerous heat source, says Carswell. He also recommends caution when using electrical heat sources.

"Space heaters are meant to warm a small area, not a whole room," he said. "Never leave one running all the time, don't use them with extension cords, and keep three feet of space around them on all sides."

"Maintenance issues and deficiencies in heating appliances increase the chances of a fire," Carswell warns.