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Chimney fire at home of chimney sweep in Independence

A chimney fire was caught early and contained to the chimney last night at 7:15 p.m. in Independence, Missouri. A passerby saw flames shooting out of the top of a stainless steel chimney serving a wood stove and ran to the door of the homeowners and knocked loudly to warn them.

Chimney serving a wood stove
Marge Padgitt

The fire occurred in the home of local chimney sweep Gene Padgitt, who had just loaded wood into the stove 15 minutes earlier. "I opened up the air intake to get the new wood going, then started making dinner and forgot about it," said Padgitt. "I had just told my wife a day earlier that it was about time for me to sweep the chimney. Obviously I waited too long."

After hearing the knock on the door the homeowner realized his mistake and knew what it must be about. As he approached the wood-burning stove, he heard the telltale roaring sound that happens during a chimney fire. Since the homeowners had been in another room at the time they did not hear the sound and were unaware of the chimney fire.

After shutting down the air intake to starve the stove of oxygen, the fire quickly went out. The chimney pipe glowed red for several minutes and glowing burning creosote shot out of the top of the chimney onto the roof and ground. The next morning burnt creosote were spotted all around the roof and yard, which were covered with snow. The chimney pipe is damaged and will need to be replaced at a cost of approximately $1,000.

According to the Midwest Chimney Safety Council, it is not uncommon for chimney fires to occur and go unnoticed by the homeowners. Most chimney fires are contained to the chimney, but if a chimney is installed improperly or has damaged, the fire can escape to the home. Burning embers can catch a roof on fire.

Chimneys serving wood stoves should be swept out twice during the wood-burning season and open fireplaces should be inspected annually and swept as necessary to remove flammable creosote. A CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep is best qualified to do this work.

Gene Padgitt said that he is mortified by the incident. "For 31 years I've been telling everyone to be sure to have their chimney cleaned to avoid chimney fires, and for it to happen to me is inexcusable."

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