If you’re like so many other New Englanders, a fireplace is sheer enjoyment. Unfortunately, many chimneys are ignored because we can’t see what’s going on inside them.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers suggestions of how to care for chimneys to help avoid fires:
• Have an annual chimney inspection and cleaning by a professional, and even more frequently if creosote builds up on the walls.
• Consider installing a stainless-steel chimney liner that withstands high temperatures and keeps embers contained.
• Watch out for soot buildup. Softer than creosote, it’s more flammable and should be cleaned up regularly.
• Clean the fireplace interior, including the floor. Sweep or vacuum up cold ashes.
• The chimney cap has a top with mesh-covered open sides to keep out birds, squirrels, and debris. Since the cap is exposed to heat as well as the weather, it needs to be inspected regularly and replaced if necessary.
• If there’s smoke indoors from the fireplace, inspect and troubleshoot the chimney and correct any problems. Causes can be a dirty chimney, soot or creosote buildup, wood is not burning completely or the damper is either not open or partially closed. If possible, burn oak, ash, maple and birch wood. These burn hot and long, are easier to handle, and have less pitch and sap.