Five homeowners in the greater Kansas City area narrowly escaped house fires due to bird nests built on and in vent covers for their gas direct-vent fireplaces recently. A local chimney sweep found the nests during routine annual service of the appliances.
Direct-vent fireplaces are a newer type of gas fireplace that are highly efficient and vent through the wall with a termination cap on the exterior of the house. Toxic heated gasses are vented to the exterior of the home. This type of fireplace needs to have an annual cleaning and tune-up in order to operate properly, and qualified technicians are usually National Fireplace Institute Certified Gas Specialists. NFI has a website where homeowners can find a certified specialist at www.nficertified.org.
The Kansas City chimney sweep who found the nests is concerned that many homeowners believe that no service is needed for this type of appliance and as a result, flammable nests won't be found until it is too late. Unfortunately, at the time of purchase buyers are sometimes led to believe that no service work is needed on gas fireplaces. The Midwest Chimney Safety Council recommends that if no professional service technician is available the homeowner should carefully remove the exterior termination cap and check the vent and cap for any nesting material that can clog the vent and/or possibly ignite from heated gasses created while the appliance is in use. The cap must be reinstalled exactly as it was. If in doubt, do not use the fireplace until a professional can inspect it. Additionally, flammable twigs, leaves, and vines should also be kept away from the vent termination covers.