Colder weather means it's time to clean the chimney

SEATTLE -- Much of the Puget Sound region is seeing the first snows of the season and for many, that means it’s time to light up the fireplace.

But if you haven’t already, it’s time to get it inspected and even cleaned. Some wonder if it’s really worth it. The National Fire Protection Association says that dirty chimneys are a leading cause of fires. A NFPA report from last year shows heating equipment accounted for 19 percent of home fire deaths between 2009 and 2013.

Last year we spoke with Brent Spraker a product manager at PEMCO Insurance. He said creosote is the main culprit.

"Creosote is the build up you get in a chimney from burning wood specifically," Spraker said. "It's a black tar-like residue and if that builds up and isn't cleaned, that can be a fire hazard."

"You can't just necessarily eyeball it and say 'oh that's good' or 'that's not good,'" Spraker said.  "There may be things hidden that you're not aware of."

It includes things like debris or birds nests.

A chimney sweep could be anywhere from $100 to $300 depending on what type of fireplace or wood stove you have in your house. And while the price may sound steep, Spraker said that getting a professional to clean your chimney once a year is worth it.

"If you do something proactive that can help prevent a loss, that's a good thing," Spraker said. "You have peace of mind that your house is safe, your family is safe.”

So as you get your cars prepared for wintry weather, now is the time to think of your home as well.

And the sooner, the better. Some of the companies we spoke with Friday told us that they are already booked up through mid-December.

Experts say this isn’t a DIY project. They suggest hiring a company that is certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. You can find a CSIA certified chimney sweep using a zip code finder at