Chimney Safety Institute of America

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Chimney Safety Institute of America Raises Awareness Through Training and Education

Writer / Melissa Gibson
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When it’s chilly outside and the holidays are around the corner, many of us think of sitting around the fireplace, enjoying some hot cocoa and family time.CSIA

Have you ever thought about the fact that you are intentionally setting a fire in your home?

Bill Wald, executive director of Plainfield’s Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) says there was a time when he thought a chimney sweep was Dick Van Dyke. However, once he learned about the science and training that go into properly caring for a chimney, he was hooked.

“It’s important to have a certified chimney sweep come out, take a look at your chimney, clean it out, and inspect for any blockage or damage,” Wald says. “We have our furnace and air conditioner checked every year. It should be the same with our chimney.”

The National Training Academy is held at the CSIA once per month, which provides trainees with a variety of classroom time and hands-on work to achieve certification.

The Plainfield campus is home to a mock three-level chimney, designed by veteran chimney sweeps and featuring more than 100 problems, allowing students to find each concern.

In addition, they have a chimney that they set on fire in each academy for educational purposes.

“It typically shocks people to see what a chimney fire actually looks like,” Wald says. “You can hear the cracking of the liners inside, the smoke and flames coming out, and it’s just a shocking experience. We literally put students through hands-on training for everything they will ever encounter.”

The industry is growing as people are looking for hands-on trades.

“They don’t want to sit behind a desk, and they’re looking for a way to be hands-on and help families,” Wald says. “We also see a lot of people who have been working in the industry for a while but want to be certified so they can help others. For example, people from the administrative offices of the company want to be able to explain information to the customers.”

Many are former firemen and know all too well the dangers of house fires, and specifically how the fireplace can play a part.

Not only do they offer chimney sweep certification, but the CSIA is also branching out to other industries that may benefit from knowledge surrounding the chimney.

CSIAThey host classes on masonry, relining a chimney and replacing a factory-built chimney. Students in the industry can learn about gas fireplaces, venting regulations and troubleshooting. Most recently, the CSIA designed a realtor class for those looking for additional information on buying and selling homes with fireplaces.

The organization is dedicated to their consumer public awareness campaign.

Tucked away on Commercial Drive in the business district of Plainfield, the organization’s leaders have watched as warehouses, housing and other developments have built up around them, but haven’t been as vocal about their presence in past years.

In an effort to share with the public regarding what they do, they recently opened their doors to the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce for a tour of the 10,000-square-foot Technology Center.

“CSIA was kind to invite our members in for a networking and informational event earlier in the years,” says Brad DuBois, president and CEO of the Plainfield Chamber of Commerce. “Most folks in Plainfield don’t know they are there or what they do, but we at the chamber want to do our best to let citizens know of this great resource and look forward to more partnerships with CSIA.”

Certified technicians take pride in educating the public during routine chimney-sweep visits and try to help when they see danger lurking.

“We want people to understand how important this is for the safety of your home and your family,” Wald says. “It’s not uncommon when a chimney sweep arrives at the house to find the gas key sitting in the keyhole for the gas fireplace. All it takes is a child to turn the key or someone to bump into it to release gas in the house.”

That’s right. It doesn’t matter if you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace – the dangers are similar.

“Even if you have a gas fireplace, you’re still burning something in your home,” Wald says. “Many start gas fires and don’t use the correct material. The plugs that release the gas can become clogged.”

In order to reach as many people as possible, CSIA President Tommy Nelms, a former fireman, hosts a Fireside Talk on Facebook every other Thursday evening. He and special guests discuss topics including what size of wood should be used, where to store it and how to season it, what creosote is (the tar-like substance that builds up inside the chimney), and dangers to the home.

It may seem strange to think of fireplace safety as summer is around the corner, but Wald recommends getting your fireplace inspected and cleaned in the warmer months.

“Once winter is over, you can hire a chimney sweep much faster and get it cleaned out for the next season,” Wald says. “If there are any issues, it gives you time to fix the problems. You can imagine how many calls they receive in the fall, right before the weather gets cold.”

In addition to the chimney safety industry, the CSIA also works in the dryer-vent industry – another dangerous and often disregarded area of the home.

“I had a friend who bought a new dryer and didn’t have their vent cleaned out,” Wald says. “They hooked it up and it caught on fire, causing $50,000 worth of damage. We often don’t think about it, but these are appliances in our home that need the same attention as others.”CSIA

The most important factor is keeping homes and families safe, and the CSIA is working to do their part.

“Little things can happen and can create a lot of damage, and possibly hurt your family,” Wald says. “We want to ensure that everyone with a chimney is safe.”

For more information on the CSIA, visit, or follow them on Facebook for daily tips and the Fireside Talk.

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