Following a chimney fire in a home on Porter Street March 10, Fire Chief Jim Dittmeier reminds homeowners to have their chimneys cleaned annually, particularly if a lot of wood is burned in the home.

Wood-burning stove flues need to be cleaned yearly as well, he said. A home was lost in Searsport earlier this year because of a dirty flue, the chief said. It’s also not a bad idea to clean chimneys connected to oil burning furnaces, he said, but they probably don’t need cleaning as often.

Searsport averages two to three chimney fires each year, he said. Between 2004 and 2006 Maine fire departments reported 1,600 chimney fires, a majority of which occurred between December and March, according to information provided by the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

Chimney fires can range in heat from 1,800 to 2,500 degrees. They can cause damage to the traditional masonry chimney system and in particular, the flue liner itself, according to the Fire Marshal’s Office.

The fires can crack open the flue liner, masonry and, in a worst-case scenario, spread into the structure, according to the Fire Marshal’s Office.