Update, Jan. 3, 2015: Once again, someone has had to be rescued after trying to use the rooftop chimney as an entryway. NBC Los Angeles reports that she was stuck above a 12-by-12-foot brick fireplace.

Photo from NBC Los Angeles website

Photo from NBC Los Angeles website














It seems to happen every season — someone looks at a chimney and sees it as an easy way to get from the outside to the inside of a home. Just ask the 13-year-old Arizona boy who got stuck in one.

It’s not surprising; everyone knows what a chimney is. But … how it works, what it looks like inside, its condition, that’s another story altogether.

The chimney flue is a long (vertical) opening that has the job of conveying what’s being burned in the fireplace or wood stove. It’s one component of a complex system (see the graphic below.) The idea is that the customer gets cozy warmth, while the smoke and whatever else goes up and out. Birds and squirrels (even snakes) are small enough to access the flue if the chimney lacks a cap.


Screengrab from a recent episode of syndicated television news program “Inside Edition.”


Some people assume because Santa seems to get from the rooftop to the Christmas tree in the family room, they too can use the chimney.

Here’s what’s in the way.

A useful diagram. Courtesy of a white paper produced by Fireman's Fund in conjunction with Chimney Safety Institute of America.

A useful diagram. Courtesy of a white paper produced by Fireman’s Fund in conjunction with Chimney Safety Institute of America.

According to media reports, the 13-year-old had been locked out of his house and planned to get in through the chimney.The teen tied an extension cord to a vent and tried to rappel his way down through the narrow gap.

But he got stuck in the flue area due to the entrance being locked. With a cellphone in his pocket, he dialed 911 and firefighters were able to break him free.

We’ve seen this happen before — including a woman who got stuck in a chimney in California earlier this year. Firefighters documented the extremely difficult rescue.

Here’s another roundup of people (including a burglar) that have gotten stuck in chimneys over the past few years, for any variety of reason.

As they say, only St. Nick can do that trick. Do NOT try that at home!