Superstorm Sandy marked the beginning of much cooler weather in the Northern Shenandoah Valley. As a result, local residents have added logs to their fireplaces and started up their wood stoves to add warmth and that cozy feeling around the hearth.
But don't let the crackling logs and flickering light lull you into complacency. Area firefighters have already been called out to structure fires as a result of flames spreading from a chimney to the home's walls.
To avoid a visit from your local fire department, make sure your home's chimney is in top shape before you set a match to the kindling. Contact your local chimney sweep for an annual chimney checkup. He or she may become your best friend, as Dick Van Dyke noted in the "Chim Chim Cheree" song in the movie "Mary Poppins:"
"Though I'm covered with soot
From me 'ead to me toes
A sweep knows 'e's welcome
Wherever 'e goes"