• Lynn Myers

Checking the Chimney


As temperatures creep down below freezing, it is time to think about turning on the furnaces and lighting up that wonderful wood burning fireplace or stove. A scenario all too familiar happens to the least expected vacation home owner. Did anyone remember to look to see if birds built their nest in the chimney? Is there a metal ash container for the leftover ashes and coals? A number of check lists should come to mind, but…let’s watch our neighbors from out of state:

“Well, don’t see any reason to check, the chimney wasn’t cleaned too long ago. (Seven years, his wife remembers). It’s going to be a wonderful day…look, it’s starting to snow!” hubby adds. “Hurry, unpack the car, start the heater,” she requests. “And for goodness sakes start that fire, it is cold in here!”

Everyone gets busy. Seventeen-year-old Jimmy gets busy with the fire in the fireplace, sister Alice is in the kitchen making the coffee and hot chocolate. Mom’ upstairs unpacking. While Dad, Big Jim, is out at the wood pile gathering tender for the stove upstairs.

Mean while the smoke is starting to gather in the great-room, something must be wrong! Alice comes out screaming, “Jimmy, what are you trying to do? Burn the House down?”

Jimmy, with a half assed smile said, “No, just forgot to open the flue.”

One crises down, but the holidays are not over yet. Wonder what could happen next…

Now that the house is warm and dinner is done, time to clean up and get ready for morning. Mom and Alice busy themselves in the kitchen while Big Jim and Jimmy clean the ashes out of the fire place. Placing them in the coal scuttle to be taken outside. Jimmy wants to leave them on the porch but his wise dad, Big Jim, tells him, “Jimmy, you can’t leave them here. Our porch is made of wood and if we left if here by morning our house would be burnt down. We will leave it in the yard and turn the water on it.”

Second crises down, But the night is still not over.

Remember that chimney that no one wanted to check? Well the nesting birds didn’t come back, but the racoons did, and a nice little nest was made along with the creosote that had built up, created a dam and a chimney fire that broke out some time after midnight.

Soon after the neighborhood was being evacuated for safety precautions, at an ungodly hour in the snowy night.

The moral to this story is don’t leave anything to chance. Even if you live in the mountains full-time, check all your systems several times a year. Particularly if you have been a way for a period of time.

First responder firefighters bear the weather no matter the cause to protect neighbors, and neighborhoods. When they are on incidents lasting longer than two hours, in Lincoln County New Mexico, they count on the helping relief provided by On Scene Support service to give them a break. For more information, please visit OSS-LCNM.org


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