Learn From the Best: Meet Your Instructors
We exist for one reason: to educate. And we couldn’t do that the level that we do without our world-class instructors. They’re the backbone of our mission and the reason we’ve gained a reputation as America’s number one provider of education in the chimney and venting industry.
These dedicated individuals are committed to the betterment of the industry, and they take time away from their own chimney and venting companies to give back. We’re so glad that they do, because they make it possible for us to bring our students the leading education they want and deserve. When you learn from the best, you can become one of the best.
So, who are our instructors?
Russ Dimmitt, Director of Education (CSIA)
Russ Dimmitt has nearly three decades of experience in the chimney industry. He came to CSIA from Copperfield Chimney Supply, where he served as Technical Manager. His responsibilities in that role included: educational programming, technical writing, public presentations, and more. Russ maintains CSIA and National Fireplace Institute certifications and is a long-time member of the Standards and Technical Panel for UL 1777 and UL 103. He is also active with various industry-related trade groups and boards of directors.
John Ceaser, Ceaser Chimney Service (Manchester, NH), 5+ years certified
John Ceaser has been a chimney sweep since 2009 and has owned his own company (Ceaser Chimney Service) since 2014. He is on the CSIA Board of Directors, is Vice President of the NEACHP, and is also a CSIA instructor. John has three amazing children (one of which is also a CSIA Certified Sweep) with his wife, Holly.
Jim Brewer, Magic Sweep (Chesapeake, VA), 35+ years certified
Jim Brewer has nearly 40 years of experience owning and operating a chimney service business. He’s also developed lasting training programs for industry organizations, as well as new franchisees and their employees. Jim has been a CSIA instructor since the 80s and has taught all of the CSIA courses over the years.
John Bently, Duct Doctor, Ltd. (New Richland, MN), 30+ years certified
John Bently owns and operates Duct Doctor, Ltd., a service company that offers air duct and chimney cleaning, dryer vent cleaning, attic insulation removal, dust down, filtration replacement, and more. John has over 30 years of industry experience and currently serves as one of our C-DET instructors. We’re happy to have him sharing his knowledge!
Steve Pietila, American Chimney & Masonry, Inc. (Portland, OR), 25+ years certified
Steve is a past President of the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA), National Chimney Sweep Guild (NCSG), and the Oregon Chimney Sweep Association, and has over 25 years of industry experience. In 2008, he received the industry’s highest honor: The NCSG President’s Award. Steve is a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep® and has been an instructor with CSIA for at least 15 years. Steve encourages his staff to seek continued education and training (financed by the company) to ensure his customers get the highest quality service possible.
When not on the rooftops or in the office, you might find Steve paddling on the Willamette or Columbia Rivers (he trains with a local outrigger canoe racing club), teaching seminars to other chimney professionals, or perhaps leading a short-term missions team. He loves his hometown of Portland and enjoys the incredible mix of small-town friendliness and metropolitan culture. Steve has been married to his lovely wife, Julie, for over 35 years, and they have three sons.
John Pilger, Chief Chimney Services (Smithtown, NY), 30+ years certified
John Pilger has been in the sweep industry since 1983 and has owned Chief Chimney Services since 1986. He is currently on the CSIA Board of Directors and is a past CSIA President, past NYS Chimney Sweep Guild President, and past Director of the National Chimney Sweep Guild. John is also a member of NCSG and represents the NCSG to the National Fire Protection Association 31 Committee (Standards for the Installation of Oil Burning Equipment). John serves on the NCSG Technical Committee and is Chair of the NCSG and CSIA International Relations Committees.
He is a CSIA and National Fireplace Institute (NFI) instructor, a CSIA- Certified Master Chimney Sweep®, CSIA C-DET, NFI Certified Wood & Gas Technician, and a F.I.R.E. Certified Fireplace Inspector. John holds an Applied Science Degree in Fire Protection Technology and is a former Fire Marshall and past Fire Chief. He has been the chimney expert for Dateline NBC, CNN, American Journal, Associated Press, and News 12 Long Island. John is a past recipient of the NY Chimney Sweep Guild ‘Andrew Schukal Award’ and the Polish Corp. of Chimney Sweeps ‘Saint Florian Award.’ In 2007, John won the CSIA’s highest award, ‘The Don Leavitt Education Award,’ for outstanding contributions to the chimney sweep industry through education.
Bob Priesing, Havelock’s Chimney & Venting, Inc. (Havelock, NC), 20+ years certified
Bob Priesing is the owner and operator of Havelock’s Chimney & Venting, Inc. and has been an instructor here at CSIA for over a decade. Bob is a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep® (he’s held his certification for more than 20 years) and has had extensive training through CSIA, the Building Performance Institute (BPI), and the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA). This training uniquely qualifies Bob to address the house as a system and address many issues that chimney and venting specialists face.
Chris Prior, Adirondack Chimney Company, Inc. (Middle Grove, NY)
Chris Prior studied mechanical engineering at Northeastern University in the early 1980s and has spent the last 35 years as a designer and builder of innovate masonry fireplaces, masonry heaters, and bake ovens (including the masonry and pizza oven at the CSIA Technology Center). He has conducted countless classes and seminars on a vast variety of topics throughout the US and Canada, and recently partnered with John Meredith of SaverSystems to develop the revolutionary Prior Fire fireplace.
Tim Reiher, Clean & Green Dryer Vent Experts, LLC. (Redford, MI), 10+ years certified
Tim owns and operates Clean & Green Dryer Vent Experts and has a passion for all things dryer exhaust. Previously, Tim was the corporate trainer and technical support manager for a national dryer vent franchise company. He is a CSIA-Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® and an instructor for our yearly 2-day Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician® workshop.
Michael Segerstrom, Bridgewater Chimney Sweeps, LLC (Bridgewater, NJ), 15+ years certified
Michael has been servicing chimneys, fireplaces, hearth appliances, and venting systems since 1997 and has owned his own company for over a decade. He is a CSIA-Master Chimney Sweep®, a F.I.R.E. Service Certified Chimney Inspector, and an NFI-Certified Woodburning and Pellet Specialist. He currently serves as the NCSG Technical Advisory Council Chair on the CSIA Board and has written and instructed classes on the local, state, regional, and national levels.
Michael is an instructor for CSIA, our National Chimney Sweep Training School, Ryan Consultants Group, and Olympia Chimney Supply. His other passions include fishing, camping, cruising, and spending time with family and friends.
Scott Stein, Safe Dryer Vent Solutions, LLC (Plainfield, IN), 4+ years certified
Scott is a veteran of the US Army and has over 15 years of experience in fire service. He’s also worked as a journeyman electrician and served the community of Plainfield as a 911 dispatcher. Scott is the owner and operator of Safe Dryer Vent Solutions, LLC and is a CSIA-Certified Dryer Exhaust Technician (CDET)®. Scott is committed to helping others pursue their dreams of providing the highest quality, most knowledgeable level of dryer vent service to their customers, which is why we’re glad to have him as a CSIA instructor.
Tom Urban, Estoban Corporation-Chim Scan (Fairfield, IA), 40+ years certified
Tom has been involved with the sweeping and hearth industry for four decades, starting out as a firewood provider (after time in the Peace Corps) and transitioning to owner of a chimney sweep and repair company. He’s worked as a tech advisor for Copperfield Chimney Supply, has been a member of NCSG for several decades, served as an NCSG Board of Director (Head of the Tech Committee), and was part of the NCSG Safety Team, which swept and video scanned the chimneys at the White House in the late 80s.
Tom has also served on the Board of Directors for CSIA as Treasurer and been a speaker at several national and state sweeping conventions. Tom is a CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep® (holding the #210 badge) and an instructor here at CSIA. He (along with his products) has been on several programs, including the PBS Show ‘This Old House,’ ABC’s ‘20/20’, and CNN. He’s also been featured in several magazines and newspapers.
Mike Van Buren, Blazing Design (Williston, VT)
Mike Van Buren, PE founder and President, has been creating unique hearth products for nearly two decades. He started Blazing Design, Inc. back in 2000 to bring custom fireplaces and fire features to homes and business. In addition to owning and operating Blazing Design, Mike and his wife and partner, Sueann, are parents to three bright, young women and one beautiful pup.
Ken Robinson, Coopertown Services (Memphis, TN)
As of 2017, there were only 32 CSIA-Certified Master Chimney Sweeps® in the US, and Ken Robinson was one of the earliest sweeps to earn this elite certification. His son, Kenny, is also a CSIA-Certified Master Chimney Sweep®, and together, they are the only father and son Master Chimney Sweeps® in the US. Ken has over 40 years of industry experience and we’re grateful to have him as CSIA instructor.
Steve Scally, Fireside Sweeps, LLC (Fremont, NH), 35+ years certified
Steve has over 40 years of experience in the industry, starting as a sweep and progressing to a business owner. Today, he owns and operates Fireside Sweeps, LLC, a business he started in 1999, and is an instructor here at CSIA. Steve learned how to sweep and repair chimneys while working for his uncle at Chimney Doctor of Concord, MA. He earned his CSIA-Certified Chimney Sweep® certification in 1981 and is proud to still hold his certification number, #401. Steven was the President of the New Hampshire Association for four years and is a current board member with the Northeast Association of Chimney & Hearth Professionals. He is an At-Large Director of the National Chimney Sweep Guild and is on the NCSG Technical Committee and Ethics Committee. Steve’s passion is sharing his knowledge and experience with anyone who wants to learn more about this industry. He has taught many masonry classes across the country, as well as many other classes related to the industry, including scaffolding, relining, flashing, and business seminars.
Tommy Nelms, Sweeps & Ladders Chimney Service (Franklin, TN)
Tommy is a former career firefighter, current President of the CSIA, owner of Sweeps & Ladders Chimney Service in Franklin, TN, and one of the founders of Sweep Away Cancer. Tommy has a passion for fire safety and believes that chimney and venting technicians can keep homeowners and firefighters safer by providing expert preventive maintenance and repairs. His experience as a firefighter, business owner, and chimney sweep gives him a unique perspective and makes him a great instructor that our students love. Tommy and his wife, Beka, live in Williamson County with their two darling sons, Boone and Wyatt.