The Chimney Safety Institute of America, a nonprofit whose mission is homeowner awareness and industry education, today notified the press office of AOL that a story posted to the GMC Trade Secrets section of its website contained some problematic wording.

The opening sentence offered guidance that CSIA asked AOL to amend.

The opening sentence offered guidance that CSIA asked AOL to amend.

In our email to AOL, we thanked the website for bringing attention to the benefits of a clean fireplace — but we strongly urged the editors amend the article because of inappropriate guidance that is misleading and could pose a risk to residents who rely on the piece for advice.

The problematic wording is this opening sentence: “A clean fireplace is an efficient fireplace, and more importantly, a safe fireplace. So, before you “fire” yours up for the upcoming winter season, give it a thorough once-over to prep it for prime house-heating and ambiance-making performance.

As we told AOL, removing soot stains and ash in-and-around the fireplace and performing a “once-over” can improve the aesthetics, but does NOT guarantee safety, as this is NOT where thousands of chimney fires start each year.

The primary way to reduce the risk associated with using your fireplace is to hire a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, who can inspect the chimney and determine whether it needs to be swept and if there’s additional issues that need addressing.

CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep (and Past President) Howard Rowell of Royal Chimney Service left some great feedback in the comments section of the AOL article. We urge anyone to who saw their piece to read his comments as well. Thanks for looking out for the welfare of residents, one of the contributions that our sweeps do better than anyone else.

We told AOL that we offer a consumers a zip-code specific CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep locator on CSIA.ORG. It’s free.  (Consumer ratings guides such as Angie’s List as well as the U.S. EPA already recommends CSIA on the consumer side of their website: http://www.epa.gov/burnwise/maintenance.html)

We hope AOL heeds our advice and amends their article. We will update our site if that happens.

Update: AOL did indeed remove the reference to “safe fireplace.” CSIA thanks them for making those changes.