Thinking about firing up the chimney? You might want to have it looked at first.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - With the colder temperatures, chimneys in the Midlands will start to warm up, but if you haven't cleaned them yet, experts say it could lead to a fire.

Local company Chimspector Venting Specialists says property losses from chimney fires are almost a billion dollars a year. Columbia has already seen a fire that officials say started in a chimney.

It happened at the end of October, at a condo on Piney Grove Road in Columbia. It's just another reason specialists say it's worth having your chimney looked at.

Drew Stein, owner of Chimspector Venting Specialists are showing us part of a chimney and inspection process they will see again.

Stein says they will see hundreds of customers before Christmas. Those numbers are not only good for business, but they are also good for keeping people safe from any issues that occur in the flue, the duct of the chimney.

"Sparks can get in there and ignite inside the flue and basically temperatures go from 6 to 700 degrees to over 2,000 degrees in a matter of seconds," says Stein.

Stein says you shouldn't take any chances

"The National Fire Protection Association recommends an inspection of your chimney system once a year," says Stein.

Part of the reason behind that inspection is to find creosote, a flammable tarlike deposit that is a by-product of wood smoke. They can also use the inspection to find and ultimately repair any damages to the chimney.

Customer Ann Robinson says the frequency is worth peace of mind.

"I just get to enjoy the fire and I don't have to worry about my sixty-year-old home burning up," says Robinson.

"We're going to do it right or we're not going to do it at all because we're talking about people's lives here," says Stein.

Another tip to keep creosote out of your fire is to make sure you burn seasoned wood. This wood should be dry and aged at least six months. Wood that was recently cut is not advised.

Stein also recommends new homeowners to have their chimney's inspected before starting a fire.

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