A longtime chimney sweep has stories of what he saw in the chimneys of Mobile


MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Thomas Lovell has been in business for 43 years as a chimney sweep. Her black top hat with protruding feathers makes her look straight out of Central Casting.

And he has stories about what he found in the chimneys of the city during those decades. He says he has seen all kinds of birds, from marmots to chimney sweeps. Possums and squirrels are quite common, he added, and he has also found snakes.

Other finds include baseballs, basketballs and beer cars, Lovell said.

“We find a lot of different things sometimes,” he said Tuesday, as his son, Mitchell Lovell, worked on a hearth and chimney at a Midtown home.

Thomas Lovell, owner of Coastal Chimney Sweeps, said chimney swifts pose a particular challenge as they are protected birds. If they are nesting in a chimney, he says, there is no choice but to wait for them to leave the nest.

When the temperature drops, as it did on Tuesday, people’s thoughts begin to drift to parties nestled in front of a fire.

It’s Lovell’s busy season.

“They want me now and not last summer,” he told FOX10 News. “So everyone, everyone is interested.”

The frequency of chimney cleanings depends on how heavily the fireplace is used, Lovell said. But he said it should be done every two years or so.

“It’s very important to do this, because you never know what’s in your chimney until you have someone check it out,” he said. “And you’ve had hurricanes – so that’s another reason to get it checked out. But the main thing is to keep a clean one. If creosote builds up, you’ll have a chimney fire. … You get a buildup anywhere of a quarter inch, or more, you could have a roaring fire Most days it’s Christmas, Thanksgiving.

It’s something Mobile Fire Department spokesman Steven Millhouse preaches every year to avoid the risk of a chimney fire becoming a house fire.

“It’s rare, but it happens, and it happens every year, because you haven’t used it for several months,” he said.

Radiators are an even bigger problem, Millhouse said. He said he saw curtains hanging over radiators and people using them to dry clothes. Last winter, he said, a woman was burned by a heater after falling asleep with it on her mattress. He said she had the grate marks from the device burned onto her arm.

“People are going to run out and get heaters and not pay attention to how to use them properly before they do,” he said. “So the most important thing we can recommend to anyone using a heater, whether it’s this week or anytime it’s cold, is to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on proper use.”

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