WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – During the winter months, chimney fires are common.

Local fire departments are urging people to take precautions to prevent chimney fires from happening.

“You want to have it inspected annually each year before you use it,” Lt. Tony Spear of the West Springfield Fire Department recommends. He explained, “You have these cracks that you may not see on the outside but it could be on the inside, which could allow the fire to get into different areas of the house.”

Most chimney fires start in the flue, where there is a buildup or blockage of some kind and that can ignite just from the heat of the fire. That black or brown residue in a chimney is called Creosote and experts say it’s highly combustible. Restricted air supply and unseasoned wood can cause creosote to buildup in your chimney.

Local fire departments advise making sure you are also taking precautions when it comes to your fireplace.

“Have one of those protective screens that keeps some of the embers from blowing out of the fire place into the home,” Lt. Spear continued.

And a reminder to always put the fire out before you go to sleep or leave your home. Also make sure your chimney has been inspected and has been thoroughly cleaned to help prevent a chimney fire from happening.