Chimney Champions sweep and inspection service“I saw flames, smoke; I couldn’t breathe. I had to slide down the stairs, started to lose consciousness….and I didn’t know where the flames were coming from!”

That’s what Timothy Zapata told Jacksonville firefighters after they rescued him from his burning home off St. Johns Bluff Road according to News4Jax reporters.

Fortunately for Zapata he was awake when his home began to burn, “A bowl of cereal saved my life… I mean, had I gone to bed, I would have probably died from smoke inhalation.” The fire marshal told Zapata it looked like a bad flue in the fireplace was the culprit.
That story led the News4Jax investigative team to turn to Chimney Champions® to learn more about how people can reduce the likelihood of a damaged fireplace or flue causing your home to burn.

Reporter Corley Peel and her production crew followed Michael Wood as he performed a chimney sweep and inspection of a local home. Michael is a third generation sweep, certified by the Chimney Safety Institute and serves as the Senior Sweep at Chimney Champions®.

The CSIA recommends an annual cleaning and inspection of your chimney. Michael shares that “most people believe the damage to their fireplace and flue is done by heat and creosote buildup. That is not the true cause of most damage to Florida fireplaces.”

In Florida most fireplace and flue damage is associated with moisture. With older masonry fireplaces the moisture destroys the mortar that holds the bricks in place. This condition can allow flue gases and fire to escape from the flue into the attic.

In homes build in the past 40 years metal prefabricated fireplaces and flues are most common. These systems rust from the top down. Also high wind and hurricanes are known to dislodge sections of metal flue pipe inside the chimney chase, often without any visible symptom.

The only way to discover this damage is to inspect the interior of the flue with a “Chim-Scan.” This device is a specialized digital camera that is inserted into the flue giving the chimney technician a complete 360 degree view of your flue from top to bottom.

The CSIA terms refers to this as a Level II Chimney Inspection. This inspection is preformed after your chimney is sweep so that any damage to the flue is not obstructed by soot or debris.

It is also critical to your safety that your home have a properly functioning smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector and fire extinguisher. Chimney Champions® inspects these devices with every chimney sweep and can replace them if needed.

A chimney inspection as defined by the CSIA is beyond the scope of a home inspection as defined by Florida Statues. Chimney inspections are being requested by home buyers at an increasing rate, though still not common in the Jacksonville area.

The more common request for chimney inspections is by sellers who prefer not to have an unwanted request for cleaning or repair by a home-buyer that could have been more easily managed prior to the home going under contract. When a rusted chimney cap or cover is observed this is an obvious time for a seller to schedule a Level II chimney inspection.

To schedule your chimney cleaning and inspection, an in office presentation on chimneys or just to ask a question call Chimney Champions® at 904-268-7200 or visit