MISSOULA, Mont. -

NBC Montana has been listening to a lot of scanner traffic lately as emergency crews rush to knock down chimney fires, so we decided to ask the experts for information to keep you and your family safe.

We talked with professional chimney sweep, Randy Vannoy who says the first thing you need to do is maintain your fireplace or wood stove; soot buildup can cause massive problems.

Vannoy says folks who use their wood stoves or fireplaces often should consider using a couple scoops of soot removing powder, otherwise known as 'fly ash,' twice a week to keep the chimney clear of soot buildup.  He also says it’s important to burn dry and not wet wood; burning wet wood is only half as effective as heating a home as dry wood is. 

"The main potential hazard is having a real bad chimney fire and it can actually burn the whole house down and I've seen it happen so it’s very dangerous,” said Vannoy.  “If the soot catches fire it could be very dangerous and it might burn the whole house down depending on how good the chimney is.”

Vannoy recommends the simple tip of allowing your fire to burn for a while so it becomes incredibly hot; he says this is a good way to prevent soot buildup.  He also recommends getting your chimney swept once a year.  He says for wood stoves it's best to clean it after burning four to six cords of wood.