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Chimneys lead to rash of structure fires in northwest Minnesota

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Numerous fires sparked up in northwest Minnesota last weekend as residents try to keep their homes warm amid skyrocketing heating fuel costs and an unusually cold start to the year.

Fire chiefs from several departments are reporting a recent increase in structure fires – many started by space heaters, old wood stoves and, most commonly, chimneys.

Recent subzero temperatures and bitter wind chill values in the region have prompted many Minnesotans to either crank up the thermostat or throw another log on the fire.

But Park Rapids Fire Chief Donn Hoffman tells the Park Rapids Enterprise that chimney fires calls in the area have been above average due to dirty flues catching fire.

"People are using fireplaces they haven't used in years," Carsonville Fire Chief Roger Wilson agreed.

It's also the same story in Lakeport, where Fire Chief John Dascalos says his firefighters have been responding to mostly "heating fires."

“They’re all weather-related,” Dascalos said.

As firewood piles quickly run out, some residents have resulted to using freshly-cut wood, the newspaper says. Burning "green" wood leads to a buildup of creosote in chimney exhaust flues, which make them highly susceptible to catching fire.

The U.S. Fire Administration says heating fires account for 36 percent of residential home fires in rural areas every year.

To avoid chimney fires, officials advise using dry firewood and having chimneys or wood stoves inspected and cleaned by a certified chimney specialist every year.

Click here for other chimney fire prevention tips.

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