Local News

Officials Look At Chimney As Possible Cause Of Chapel Hill Fire

Posted December 8, 2003 5:21 a.m. EST

— A half-dozen people are homeless after a fire raced through a Chapel Hill condominium early Monday morning. Investigators are focusing on a cause that could be a problem in your home.

Fire crews were called to the Finley Forest apartment complex off Brookberry Circle at 6:24 a.m. When they arrived, several units were engulfed.

Tom Sullivan could only watch as firefighters struggled to control the flames. In an instant though, his home of 13 years was destroyed.

"I heard sirens and heard people shouting, 'Get out, get out,'" he said. "All of my stuff is gone. It might not mean anything to anyone else, but it's mine and it's tough to lose that," he said.

Firefighters are not sure what caused the fire, but they are looking closely at one of the fireplaces.

"Anytime, people start building a fire inside a fireplace. There's a possibility that the fire could start a chimney fire and people have to protect their lives," said Fire Chief Robert Bosworth.

Officials say the best way to prevent a chimney fire is to have your fireplace inspected and cleaned. Professional chimney sweeps recommend getting your fireplace checked every other year.

"We find people who haven't had their fireplace cleaned in five years," said Bill Coble of Carolina Chimney Sweeps.

The soot buildup can be a big problem, but Coble said there is something else you need to keep an eye on -- cracks.

"If there are any cracks in the chimney, the flames can come shooting out like a propane torch and that's when people burn their house down," he said.

Two units sustained smoke and water damage. No one was injured. Property managers at Finley Forest say they remind homeowners every year to clean their fireplaces.