IT'S a far cry from the Dickensian days of sending children up chimneys to clean out the soot, but the lot of the modern chimney sweep is just as dirty.
Professional chimney sweep Gary Murphy learnt his trade in the colder climes of New Zealand, but hated it so much he gave it away to become a roof plumber.
But after a decade working on roofs, he has found he is more than happy to return to his first trade.
“Now I love it because it gets me off the roofs a bit,” he joked.
“I learnt from my stepfather in New Zealand who still is a chimney sweep.”
Mr Murphy is one of the few professional chimney sweeps operating in the Northern Rivers and is flat out keeping up with the current winter demand.
“I'm a roof plumber by trade but I just opened my chimney-cleaning business here six months ago,” he said. “I have to go back to roofing in summer, but I do offer discounts for people to clean their chimneys in the off-season.”
Chimney fires are notoriously difficult to extinguish. Authorities warn that they are one of the great dangers of having a combustion heater or fireplace and recommend annual safety checks.
“You should get your chimney or flue checked once a year and cleaned at least every two years. If you don't you're going to set your house on fire, it's as simple as that; or failing that you'll set your hedge on fire or the neighbour's house,” he said.
“Also you can often get bird nests in your chimney at the start of the season which will catch alight.”
Mr Murphy recommended burning dry, well-seasoned hardwood, but said any wood was okay as long as the chimney was regularly cleaned. He added that pine cones were a great way to start a “good hot fire”.
Comments: What's the dirtiest job you've ever had?
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.