WARE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- An increase in chimney fires reported in western Massachusetts as many of us are firing up our fireplaces for the holidays.

That rise in chimney fires is creating high demand for those in the chimney inspection business.

Jim Walling owns Fire Safe Chimney Services in Ware. Right now, his crews are working non-stop.

"We are busy. We're booking up into January with repairs right now," said Walling.

The number one cause of chimney fires, Walling added, "It is literally lack of maintenance."

Walling told Western Mass News that one recent fire started with cracked tiles - these orange tiles that sit in most chimneys to funnel smoke up and out.

"As these tiles cracked, they did it with such force that it actually cracked the block of the chimney. If this is on the inside and this kind of thing happens, obviously, that can lead to problems as well, because now you've not only got a lack of containment in here, you've got a lack of containment on the block itself, and you have yourself a fire in your house, you absolutely can," Walling explained.

Some chimneys have a buildup on the interior tile of fire-causing creosote, a chemical mass of carbon formed when wood is burned.

"This powder indicates that it was heated very quickly," Walling noted.

Walling said that this is best way to check for creosote buildup, cracks in tiles or any other red flag.

"This is a chimney inspection camera. It's a closed circuit system. We have a 100 foot, a monitor there," Walling said.

Today, one homeowner got a modern stainless steel chimney. Walling said that steel is more efficient and creosote has a tougher time attaching itself.

Walling added that Massachusetts does have a chimney code..

"And we want to make certain that your chimney does match that code. We're not doing it to scare you or anything like that. We want to make sure that we're doing when we leave is going to be alright. That's why we do what we do," Walling noted.

Walling said that homeowners should have their chimney inspected once a year by someone who is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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