Thursday, January 8, 2009

Member in the News

It's 'flue' season: Chimney sweeps can help prevent house fires

By Dan O'Brien / The Daily Item
Dave O'Shea was startled but not shocked when he read an Item article Jan. 2 about a house fire in Marblehead that firefighters said began in a chimney flue.Lots of house fires begin in poorly maintained chimneys, but firefighters said the New Year's Day fire occurred in a chimney that was inspected only two days earlier.John and Joanne Nestor of 32 Beverly Ave. suffered about $50,000 worth of damages after fire spread from the chimney through the walls.O'Shea, a Marblehead chimney sweeper who is on the board of directors for the Massachusetts Chimney Sweeping Guild, said there is no law in Massachusetts that requires chimney sweepers to be licensed."What boggles my mind is that painters have to be licensed, but not us," O'Shea said. "We're looked at as having a quaint, 'Dick Van Dyke' image but we're very skilled at what we do."O'Shea is the co-owner of All About Chimneys, of 4 Beringer Way, Marblehead, and warns homeowners to only hire chimney sweepers proven to be certified by the Mass. Chimney Sweeping Guild or the Chimney Safety Inspectors of America, who take rigorous exams on chimney inspection every three years.
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The Mass. Chimney Sweeping Guild's Web site ( provides a list of reputable sweepers on the North Shore.The guild has been fighting for the state legislature to require all chimney sweepers in Massachusetts to have a license, O'Shea said."We have fought for licensing for many, many years," O'Shea said. "We've gone before the legislature and said, 'Please, license us.'"O'Shea said this season he's observed more "fly by night" companies that aren't reputable and taking advantage of homeowners in tough financial times.
"There's no recourse for the home owner," he said. "I think because of the economy there are a lot more fly-by-nighters. We have little to combat that because there is no official licensing."Experienced sweepers first do a close visual inspection of the chimney, including its flues and liners, on the first visit to make sure there are no cracks or other damage, O'Shea said. A second inspection would require cameras to take a closer look while a third inspection might require taking the chimney apart to thoroughly examine it."There can be a lot of hidden defects nobody knows anything about until something bad happens," he said.The two non-profits mentioned are going to do everything they can this year to pass a law allowing licensing of sweepers before another house fire occurs, considering the seriousness of working with gas and oil heat while inspecting a chimney, O'Shea said."If those aren't working properly a homeowner could have serious problems with loss of property of life," he said.

1 comment:

David O'Shea said...

Just a note to sweeps reading this. I have spoken to the reporter who did the article and he will be printing a correction changing "Inspectors" to "Institute" in CSIA. He apologizes for the error.