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 INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. Many Hoosiers may want to curl up next to a nice warm fire with colder weather hitting central Indiana, but before you put your fireplace to work, safety experts are issuing a warning.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, there are over 20,000 chimney fires each year. Local chimney experts like Dennis Lamb, with The Mad Hatter, say things like creosote buildup can lead to those fires. Which is why Lamb recommends annual inspections and sweeps to help reduce the risk.

“If that’s not swept, it can all ignite, and when it ignites its extremely hot. You’re flirting with danger if you don’t know if its operational, if it’s up to standards.”

Lamb also says one of the biggest mistakes he often sees is people using improperly seasoned firewood. He says firewood should be chopped, covered, and stored dry for at least a year before use. Otherwise moisture in the wood can create buildup in a chimney as it burns.

“It can be problematic, and a lot of people take it too lightly sometimes, and they think that everything is going to be alright, and it just might not be,” Lamb said.

As to other methods of heating a home, experts also recommend having home furnaces checked and maintenanced before they are turned on.

“The whole secret is to get a maintenance check on it, and make sure it’s coming on and staying on like it should and kicking off when it should,” Dave Mejean with B&W Plumbing and Heating said.

Mejean says modern furnaces contain safety shut offs that help prevent most dangerous overheating and fire issues, but adds that it’s important you check your furnaces regularly anyway, particularly when it comes to replacing the filter.

“You should be replacing a filter every month or two,” he said.

Fire officials say you should also make sure that any flammable items near your furnace are at least three feet away from a furnace. They also recommend checking to make sure your smoke detectors are in working order and have working batteries.