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There is something homey about a wood burning fireplace, especially in the first frosty days of the fall. But before the fireplace is lit, it needs to be inspected and cleaned.

Here are 5 important safety reminders for your customers.

1. Clean out nests and leaves. Birds or squirrels may have built a nest, or it could be blocked with leaves or even a critter’s body.

2. Look for cracks. This is not really a do-it-yourself project, but it is important to maintain the integrity of both the firebox and the chimney.

3. Check for creosote. This flammable build-up in the chimney can be hard to see or clean. Hiring a sweep may be required, especially if the home has just been purchased. Who knows when the previous owner last had it done?

4. Be careful of chemical cleaners. Some general cleaning products are flammable, so use just those made for chimney and fireplace cleaning.

5. Test the damper. Good airflow is critical to the safe use of a fireplace, and it keeps smoke out of the house.

The U.S. Fire Administration has produced several videos on how to inspect a fireplace and basic maintenance. Enjoy the season, but, be safe!