Northwest NEWS

March 19, 2001


Have you had your chimney checked?

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials reported recently that 50 percent of the homes inspected by FEMA so far sustained chimney damage in the Nisqually Earthquake. Most of the chimney damage found is in King, Pierce and Thurston counties.
   To date, of the $5.1 million approved by FEMA through its temporary disaster housing program, $3 million has been distributed to homeowners for chimney-repairs.
   "FEMA is providing funds for essential repairs for one damaged chimney per residence," said Bill Lokey, federal coordinating officer for the earthquake recovery operations. "Funds may be made available from FEMA for work on additional chimneys that pose a safety hazard."
   The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) also may provide long-term low interest loans for chimney related repair costs not covered by FEMA. Disaster loans from SBA are the primary source of funds for repairing earthquake damage to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes.
   Officials are warning residents to have their chimneys inspected by local authorities before using their fireplaces and not to begin any repairs to un-inspected chimneys, which could pose a significant safety risk.
   After chimneys are inspected, homeowners will need to obtain a building permit before beginning repairs.
   State law requires permits for chimney work, and some counties are waiving permit fees for chimneys damaged in the earthquake. For more information about required permits and safety inspections, homeowners should contact their local building department.
   "Improperly repaired chimneys could allow carbon monoxide fumes to leak through to living areas, threatening safety and health," said State Coordinating Official Diane Offord. "Even chimneys without visible damage can contain cracks in the flue or vent."
   Cracked flues in masonry and metal chimneys may permit toxic gases to escape into the house.
   Vents on appliances that burn natural gas, such as fireplaces, water heaters, furnaces and stoves are subject to the same hazards and should be inspected at the same time.
   FEMA's mitigation experts have established a toll-free number, 1-800-838-7046, that people can call to get advice on chimney repairs and strengthening homes, securing contents and rebuilding stronger and better.
   Telephone lines are open Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
   People whose homes and businesses were damaged by the earthquake are urged to call the FEMA toll-free number at 1-800-462-9029 to register for disaster assistance and an on-site inspection. Hearing or speech-impaired persons may call TTY 1-800-462-7585.
   Homeowners whose property sustained earthquake damage also may be eligible for HUD-FHA insured loans to finance repairs to their homes.
   For information, call HUD's Community Builders toll-free at 1-877-741-3281. HUD staff also are available at Disaster Recovery Centers.