Chimney fires lighting up

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Three students from UNC-Wilmington are spending Wednesday night with friends, after a chimney fire tore through the side of their home, early Monday morning.

Nationwide, 36 percent of house fires are caused by heating devices. The Wilmington Fire Department says when the temperature drops, chimney fires start lighting up.

If a gas, wood or pellet burning fire place chimney combusts, is cracked or is stuffed with residual soot, a chimney fire can break out.

Early Monday morning, Parker Wiebe noticed the house filling up with smoke even though their fire was small and contained.

"It kind of freaks me out," said Parker. "That's just something we would never think of, and it went up in flames."

Flames started at the top of Parker's chimney and eventually consumed most of the structure. Firefighters had to knock down the entire chimney, leaving a gaping hole in the side of his rental property.

"It's a shame that we have to have loss of life, or destruction of property for people to want to take it seriously," said Ron Segars, Jr., a co-owner of Ron's Fireside Shop. "A couple hundred bucks can save thousands of damage."

Ron says that most people put an annual chimney inspection and cleaning on the back burner, then simply forget about it before throwing logs in.

"Homes can be rebuilt and fire places can be remade, but people can't," said Ron.

Parker says his rental company is sending insurance agents out to assess the damage. He lost a couch and his roommate's TV was destroyed. They're thankful it did not reach the bedrooms and that everyone got out safely. In his next home, Parker says it's unlikely he will ever cozy up next to a fireplace again.

"I'm going to clean it and not use it!" laughed Parker. "I'll probably put decorations in my fire place in the future!"

The staff at Ron's Fireside Shop say chimney cleaning and inspection is not a "do-it-yourself" project. Professionals use special cameras, are up-to-date on fire codes and know what nooks-and-crannies to look for.

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