SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Heating is the leading cause of home fires in Massachusetts, according to the state fire marshal’s office.

In 2017, the most recent stats available, there were 524 incidents involving chimneys, fireplaces, and wood stoves statewide.

Seven people died as a result, one of them being a firefighter.

“Ten to 12 jobs a day. That’s what we’re doing," said Matthew Kapinos with Ace Chimney Sweeps.

Busy is how Kapinos would describe his schedule in the heart of winter. Though each job is different, he’s mostly looking for a tarry substance that is the byproduct of burning wood called creosote that can ignite in a flash.

“That's fuel to a chimney fire," Kapinos noted.

Kapinos let Western Mass News tag along to clean a chimney.

“Right now, we're looking at a bit of soot coming down. Right now, it's got a little bit of shine to it, which isn't too bad...not in big chunks," Kapinos explained.

Big shiny chunks would be creosote, leading to terrible things.

“Full blown fire, it's going to look like a Roman candle," Kapinos added.

It can build up practically anywhere you burn wood.

“If there's any way where smoke can get through a crack now, you're going to get creosote on the outside of that liner," Kapinos said.

After the sweep, Kapinos said that the chimney is good to go.

"Little bit of creosote, but nothing to the point where it's going to catch fire,” Kapinos said.

It might be time to light the fire, but after a very wet season, you should listen out for a few things - a crack, a pop, or Kapinos said “a hissing, almost like a snake. If you hear that, that wood still has moisture in it and you're going to start creating creosote. No matter how good of a burn you burn, because that moisture content is still in it.”

Yearly inspections are recommended by the Chimney Association to prevent fires.

The state fire marshal’s office adds that on top of that, people should also be checking their smoke detectors.

For more information on how to heat your home safely this winter, CLICK HERE.

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

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