POLAND — Crews from the Poland and Mechanic Falls fire departments responded Sunday afternoon to a chimney fire, prompting Poland Chief Tom Printup to issue a caution: Cold weather can lead to dangerous fires.

While the fire at 738 Bakerstown Road in Poland injured no one and caused little damage to the house, Printup said the outcome could have been much worse.

“When you get into the single digits, you’re burning wood a lot more than you are in the 20s and 30s,” Printup said. “That pushes on the price of oil. And when oil prices skyrocket, people tend to burn wood.”

Printup said the fire was called in at  3:25 p.m., and crews worked quickly  to contain the fire to the chimney and wood stove.

Within 45 minutes, the house was safe. Printup said the family — a mother, an 8-year-old child and a dog — was back inside as of Sunday evening.

“They are using a secondary heat source until they can get their chimney inspected and their wood stove properly inspected,” Printup said.

Printup said the chimney fire was most likely the result of a buildup of soot from from normal use.

Although the chimney fire Sunday afternoon did not result in injuries, that is not always the case.

In September, a Carthage man suffered suffered burns to about 50 percent of his body after a chimney fire destroyed his house.

According to 2017 annual report, there were 365 chimney fires in Maine, which was third, behind general building fires and cooking fires. There were no recorded fatalities from chimney fires in 2017.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the education, training and certification of chimney and industry related professionals, chimney fires can be dramatic.

According to the organization’s website, some chimney fires, while unseen, burn explosively and are so noisy they can be heard by neighbors or people passing by. Many go undetected and burn themselves out.

“Slow-burning chimney fires don’t get enough air or have fuel to be dramatic or visible, and they often go undetected until a later chimney inspection,” according to the organization’s website. “But they can cause as much damage to the chimney structure — and nearby combustible parts of the house — as their more spectacular cousins.

“We recommend for the home owner and everyone else in the public to have chimneys cleaned once a year, by a professional, to make make sure they can scrape all that soot from the chimney.”

Steve Fourtier, owner of the Village Sweep, a chimney sweep and masonry business in Auburn, said he recommends homeowners have their chimneys inspected and cleaned regularly, ideally before cold weather arrives.

“Get it done before winter, ideally,” Fourtier said. “Anytime from the time you’re done heating to the time you want to start heating. Once you get into the cold, the pressure is on. I’ve gone to houses when the stove is still going, so I couldn’t do it, and it was a waste of everybody’s time.”

Chimneys should have an annual “checkup,” with some Maine communities offering free chimney inspections. L-A does not, but the Auburn government website links to a list of local chimney sweeps.

Printup said burning the correct wood is key to avoiding chimney fires.

“Green, unseasoned firewood creates more blockages and chimney fires,” he said.

Green wood is wood that has been cut recently and has not had the time to season or dry. Firefighters and other experts say dry, seasoned woods burn the longest, produce the most heat and leave behind the least amount creosote.

Creosote is a highly flammable substance that builds up on chimney walls, increasing the risk of chimney fires.

Homeowners concerned about chimney safety can get more information from the Chimney Safety Institute of America at www.csia.org/; the National Fireplace Institute at www.nficertified.org/; or Certified Chimney Professionals at www.CertifiedChimneyProfessionals.com.

Firefighters respond Sunday afternoon to a chimney fire on Bakerstown Road in Poland. Poland Deputy Chief Tom Printup said cold spells tend to increase people’s use of wood stoves and, thus, the possibility of chimney fires. (Sun Journal photo by Jon Bolduc)

Firefighters respond Sunday afternoon to a chimney fire on Bakerstown Road in Poland. Poland Deputy Chief Tom Printup said cold spells tend to increase people’s use of wood stoves and, thus, the possibility of chimney fires. (Sun Journal photo by Jon Bolduc)

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