I apologize if I always seem to be making negative posts and rants on here! Here is some good news! I hired a chimney sweep, using the BBB to find a reliable contractor. He showed up 15 minutes EARLY for the appointment, inspected not only my fireplace and chimney, but my furnace and hot water tank and all my smoke detectors, and since he was up on the high ladder, cleaned my gutters and roof around the chimney for NO EXTRA CHARGE. He was amazing and the epitome of a small businessman who truly valued a new customer. OMG I can't tell you how much it meant to me that he cleaned out the gutters and cleared the roof while I was in the process of raking and bagging pineneedles from last night's windstorm. He will have my business for as long as I live in this house. Last year I hired someone to clean my roof and gutters, and they charged me double the quote and didn't do what I asked at the time I hired them (and I used what I thought was a reputable screening service!!) He pointed out that my chimney probably hadn't been cleaned in a decade (yet didn't use that as an excuse to charge me extra!), and that my flue chain needs tightening, which he said he'd come back to take care of when he had the right tools. All I can say is WOW. I truly lucked out!