Where the old image of the chimney sweep is a skinny guy with a big brush covered with grime and soot, the modern chimney sweep is much cleaner and uses high tech equipment in the 21st century, according to two Columbia sweeps. There are about 30 chimney sweeps in the state, and they keep busy. Sweep Drew Stein says dense plastic rods with brushes now are inserted into chimneys and spun with a drill to clean soot and creosote – a flammable byproduct of burning wood – from chimneys, which prevents dangerous chimney fires.
Stein's colleague Steven Lantry says the modern sweep also inspects chimneys with a camera system to detect creosote, cracked masonry and water damage, among other potential dangers. The sweeps say they’ve also found some pretty unusual objects lodged in chimneys over the years, from money to owls and ducks to beer cans, historic newspapers and a football, among other things. They both get satisfaction from their profession, they say, because they know they’re helping people to keep their homes safe and their property values intact.