Chimney fires are a common cause of residential fires that can easily be prevented. If you frequently use your wood-burning fireplace it is recommended that you have your chimney inspected on a regular basis. Frequency of chimney inspection and cleaning can range from once a month to no less than once a year. How often you clean the chimney depends on the amount you use your fireplace or stove. If you light a fire a couple times a year for the occasional romantic evening, then one annual inspection may be all that is required. However, if you use your fireplace or stove to heat your house during the winter, you may need to have it cleaned on a more stringent cleaning schedule. For the homeowner, self-inspection of the chimney can be very limited. You can either look up into the flue with a flashlight or look down the chimney from the top. In either case you want to look for creosote build-up. If you see chunks of black stuff sticking to the inside walls of the flue, it needs to be cleaned.