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Is there something ALIVE stuck in my chimney?

It could be an animal (such as a squirrel or a bird) that has fallen down the chimney and cannot get out.


If you hear a squirrel scuttling around in your chimney, it is likely that it is trapped unless you have seen it scurrying in and out.

  • Make sure the damper is closed.
  • Lower a thick rope (at least ¾” thick) down the chimney, making sure it is long enough to reach the smoke shelf (just above the damper).  Tie it off at the top of the chimney.
  • The squirrel should climb up on its own during daylight hours.

If the critter is in your fireplace,

OPTION 1 – get professional help
Call nearest Animal Sanctuary or Wildlife Rehab.  Have them remove any critters from out of the chimney.


  • Position a live trap baited with peanut butter in the fireplace behind the fireplace doors.  Most likely the squirrel will huddle back in the corner of the fireplace and will stay there (even when you open the doors) as you place the just inside the doors.
  • Move slowly and try not to make a lot of banging and clanging noise.
  • Go away and wait for the squirrel to enter the trap.

Note: Just in case (before you try to put the trap in the fireplace), you may want to create a “funnel” system leading to an open door.  It is possible that the frightened squirrel may decide to bolt into the room.  Tables and/or chairs turned on their side can create a path out to an open door.


  • Trim any tree branches hanging over your house.
  • After making sure there are no active squirrel nests, apply a 3-foot sheet metal band around the base of any nearby tree to prevent squirrels from accessing the tree. Caution:  make sure the sheet metal is at least 4 feet off the ground.  This prevents the squirrels from jumping over it.


IMPORTANT NOTE:  This information applies to trapped animals and not to birds that are nesting in your chimney.  Birds that might nest in your chimney are often protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  See other blog posts for more information about Chimney Swifts and other protected birds.  

If you hear a bird flapping frantically in your chimney, it is likely that the bird is stuck.

OPTION 1 – get professional help
Call nearest Animal Sanctuary or Wildlife Rehab.  Have them remove the trapped birds from out of the chimney.

OPTION 2 — DIY removal process

  • Get a few friends together.  Have them stand behind you with a bed sheet stretched between them.  If the bird flies out prematurely, it will fly into the sheet instead of all over your room/house.*
  • Open the damper.
  • Shut the doors to your fireplace. (If you do not have doors on your fireplace, you can create temporary doors by taping a sheet across the opening.)
  • Allow the bird to drop down into your fireplace.
  • Slowly open the doors to the fireplace and gently toss a piece of cloth over the bird.
  • Wait a few minutes to allow the bird to calm down
  • Carefully transport the bird (in the cloth) outside and release it.

*If the bird does fly out into the house, it can be gently “herded” out as long as the ceilings of the building are not too high.

  • Turn off all interior lights.
  • Open as many doors and windows as possible.
  • Use a “rolling” wall (a bed sheet tied between two broom handles.) holding it up so it is flush with the ceiling and gently herd the bird toward the open door or window.

Perform the process slowly and gently so as not to panic the bird.  Panicked birds may fly into windows or other barriers.  Avoid pressing a bird for long period of , it may become exhausted trying to flee.

Once the unwelcome tenants are gone, call a chimney sweep right away to install a chimney cap with an animal guard to make sure no new unwelcome guests move in.

Certified Chimney Technicians Can Make All the Difference

The idea of paying someone to sweep your fireplace and chimney can be tough to accept, especially with the countless other items and services that seem more urgent. It might make more sense to you to invest your hard-earned paychecks on fresh food for the week, new outfits for the kids to wear to school, or that visit to the car mechanic you have been putting off. Of course, these investments are important and deserve your attention too, but do not misjudge the importance of proper chimney care. Failure to correctly maintain your chimney can cost you big time in the long run.


CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps When you look for the best chimney specialist in your area, consider paying a few extra dollars for a serviceperson who is qualified. Hiring a technician with a formal certification in their field is akin to hiring a guaranteed expert. This choice will determine how much time, money and hassle you save in the future.

The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers nationally recognized certification for chimney sweep specialists. Just as you want your children’s teachers to be certified or your car mechanic to know what he is doing, you should expect your chimney sweep to be a complete expert as well. Although a noncertified technician could potentially do an adequate job of sweeping your chimney, you can never know for sure. By taking this unnecessary risk, you are putting the health of your family and the safety of your home in danger.

A badly swept chimney can cause several serious problems. For example, an obstruction caused by animals or debris may not be completely removed. This continued blockage can result in improper ventilation, which in turn can cause smoke to backup into the house and even cause carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, a noncertified chimney sweep may not be adequately trained in the removal of creosote buildup. This tarlike product of burning wood builds up in the flue of the chimney over time. It is highly flammable, so it can start an unintentional chimney fire if not cleared properly. Creosote can also cause health issues, like lung cancer and birth defects in fetuses, so clearing the chimney of the toxic substance is imperative.

Aside from the physical act of cleaning out the chimney, a certified sweep will also be able to spot any structural defects in the chimney. Issues like water damage, a missing or damaged chimney crown, or a broken damper can be spotted easily by a trained expert.

If you want to hire a certified technician to help keep your home safe, get in touch with a professional and ask for proof of certification. If you live in the area of upstate South Carolina, contact Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps for a professional consultation.