HINCKLEY – A chimney sweep may conjure images of Dick Van Dyke’s dust-covered character in Mary Poppins, but that’s not really what a chimney sweep looks like today.
In addition to the traditional long-handled brush, chimney sweep Gary Pozzi uses rotary cleaning rods powered by a cordless drill with special vacuums to keep homes clear of dust.
Pozzi opened his business, Pozzi Chimney Sweep, in Hinckley early last year with his wife, Laura. Technology plays a big role in his business, which also includes dryer ventilation cleaning.
When cleaning chimneys, he uses a “Chim-Scan” video camera that captures still images and video, which show up on a computer screen in real time. The camera attaches to a rod and helps Pozzi pinpoint defects such as a broken tile.
“I have the homeowner come over and show them exactly what the problem is,” he said. “They’re not being scammed.”
Pozzi was certified in February through the Chimney Safety Institute of America, which involved months of self study, an eight-hour review and passing a two-hour test.
He started his business after retiring in 2010 as an Aurora firefighter – a job he held for 27 years. He spent some time as a chimney sweep while working as a part-time firefighter before being hired full time.
“I enjoyed the chimney sweep business,” he said. “It keeps me involved in fire prevention.”
Pozzi was certified as a dryer exhaust technician in March. He said people with dryers in their homes – especially those powered with natural gas – should have machines inspected once a year because pent-up lint or clogged airways could result in fires or the release of carbon monoxide.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, failure to clean dryers is the leading cause of dryer fires.
And built-up creosote – the sticky substance created when wood isn’t burned completely – causes chimney fires. Fireplaces should also be inspected once a year, Pozzi said.
According to the NFPA, heating equipment such as fireplaces and dryers account for 18 percent of reported home fires – the second highest after cooking. More than half of home fires that start from a fireplace, chimney or chimney connector are caused because they weren’t cleaned properly.
Pozzi said his job allows him to inspect homes more freely than when he was a firefighter.
“Being in the fire service, code allowed us to walk into any business and do inspections,” he said. “But we’re not able to go into a resident’s home.”
When a client sets up an appointment, he usually checks furnaces and water heaters to make sure there’s proper venting and that flammable materials aren’t sitting too close. He also carries extra carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in case a client needs one.
Pozzi said there are three levels of inspection, with the first level being what he can see. The second level would involve the Chim-Scan camera, and the third level would be doing demolition and getting inside of a wall to check clearances.
Pozzi said with properly maintained heating equipment, clients can have peace of mind that fire risks are much lower.
“I’m able to make people more aware of potential problems with fire because it’s devastating,” he said. “It really is devastating.”