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Columbia River Fire and Rescue joins Scappoose Fire District in free effort to curb chimney fire occurrences

PHOTO COURTESY OF COLUMBIA RIVER FIRE AND RESCUE - Columbia River Fire and Rescue is now lending brushes to residents to help them clean out creosote buildup and prevent chimney fires. Residents can check out the brushes by visiting the fire station, bringing an ID and filling out a short form. Use of the brushes is free.Fire districts in Scappoose, St. Helens and Rainier are offering free use of chimney cleaning equipment in an effort to prevent chimney fires.

The Scappoose Fire District and Columbia River Fire and Rescue are both offering to loan out chimney cleaning equipment for residential use for both wood- and pellet-burning stoves.

Fire Chief Mike Greisen said SFD has been loaning equipment for more than 20 years, but CRFR began offering similar services for residents in St. Helens and Rainier in January.

"It is important for residents to clean their chimney annually, and if they use it for their main source of heat or they happen to use wet fire wood, then they should consider cleaning the chimney a few times a year," Greisen said.

The most recent data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported an annual average of 22,300 structure fires that originated in the fireplace, chimney or chimney connector. An average 20 people died in such fires, while 70 were injured, the same study shows.

In the past month, CRFR responded to three calls regarding chimney fires. While none of the incidents resulted in major damage, fire officials recommended the homeowners make sure their chimneys were cleaned regularly or by a professional.

Chimney fires can cause serious damage to homes and can result in injuries or death. Last year, in January and February, four chimney fires were reported by CRFR within two months, one of which caused nearly $30,000 in damage when the blaze spread to other areas of the home.

Greisen said that while chimney fires have become less common as newer wood stoves burn fuel more efficiently, causing less creosote buildup, it's still important to regularly have the chimney cleaned.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends finding a certified chimney sweep to perform inspections and cleanings. Other tips can be found on the institute's website, www.csia.org or on the National Fire Protection Association website, www.nfpa.org.

Supplies for the checkout program are subject to availability. Chimney brushes are available in round, square and triangular shapes at the Scappoose Fire Station. CRFR has round and square brushes ranging in size from six-inch to 12inches, with some specialty brushes available only at the Rainier Fire Station.

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