The outline for a brief history of chimney cleaning looks something like this:
- Chimneys Become a Problem
- Urban crowding begins
- Indoor fireplaces become increasingly popular
- Chimneys have to be smaller
- Master sweeps do not fit
- Modern Day Chimney Sweeps Arise
- Orphans are used
- Many are injured or die in chimneys
- Regulations are written into law
- Special equipment replaces small children
- Chimneys Remain a Problem
- Chimneys are still hard to inspect and clean
- Some “chimney sweeps” are still fly-by-nights
- Certification of professional chimney sweeps begins
Smoke and Mirrors
The lessons to be taken from this brief history are extensive, but the profession’s increasing focus on safety mirrors that of homeowners. It may have been homeowners objecting to the obvious lack of humanity and safety of using small children that brought about legislation to begin with. Certainly intended to address those concerns, continuing education and examination are now required for professional certifications.
Whether regulation resulted from demanding homeowners or compassionate ones, it got children out of chimneys. It did not, however, prevent unscrupulous “chimney sweeps” from completing quick trainings and “cleaning” chimneys. That is where organizations like the CSIA (Chimney Safety Institute of America) have stepped in, as much to protect homeowners as themselves. Setting standards for certification and requiring ongoing education for constantly modernizing fireplace systems, these associations save homeowners the trouble of screening their sweeps.
A History Not So Brief
The history of chimney sweeps is actually a fascinating one; perfectly logical in its unfolding. Parts of it have been portrayed and popularized in films and plays, and parts of it are left completely to our imagination. What we do know is that we are glad it has evolved throughout the years, and it is now a more professional and safe industry, for both homeowners and chimney sweeps alike.