There seems to be some confusion in the public's eye regarding "Certification". There are many companies who "Boast" their credentials by saying, "I am a "Certified Chimney Sweep." or even better, they will say, "I am a "Certified Fire Inspector."
For the ordinary customer seeking a "qualified" chimney sweep, they may be drawn into hiring someone who has been given a title of a "Certified Chimney Sweep" or a "Fire" certified Inspector." What the customer is not aware of is, these certifications they are boasting, have not been provided to them by the State of Virginia and are not mandated by the State of Virginia. Currently, there is no legal binding authority for certification of a chimney sweep in the State of Virginia.
The same goes for companies that say they are a "Certified 'Fire' Inspector". Now, there may actually be some State qualified fire fighters out there moonlighting, cleaning chimneys on the side or are retired and have the actual qualifications of a "State certified Fire inspector", but for the most part, these certifications come from a Non State run agency with hopes to educate those interested in entering the field of chimney sweeping and repair and have nothing to do with being a "Real" Virginia State qualified "Fire Inspector."
If you look at the guidelines set forth by the Commonwealth of Virginia for the qualifications and training to become a Fire Inspector, then you will soon realize that there it is much more than taking an online test. It can take years of college training and then you have to pass the exam set forth by State.
The Chimney Companies that claim they are Certified Fire inspectors are most likely not State Certified but rather hold a certificate from a course they completed provided by a non-state run agency. Thus, they use the word "FIRE" as an acronym.
This certification was hopefully created to standardize an exam that will increase the professional know how and improve the analytical skills of persons engaging in chimney inspections, servicing of chimneys, and/or installation of hearth products and related items.
A 125 question multiple choice exam is given where their student must pass by an eighty percent or higher grade. The certification program was started in the year 2000 and it's membership is growing. "Certification by 'THIS SERVICE' is achieved by participating in forty-eight hours of intensive training, (Whew wee) an additional five to ten hours of mandatory homework, (now your talking...) and the subsequent successful completion of the F.I.R.E. (Non-State) certification exam developed by them. Through this process, the successful applicant demonstrates to the Their Service that he/she has met the minimum requirements and possesses the minimum professional training, tested education and experience mandated by such certification program....but then the "Service" of course has a CAVEAT (that's a Latin term that means.."let him beware" ) that the certification by the "Service" and the "Examination Board" does not, in and of itself, qualify an applicant as an investigator or expert witness for purposes of civil and criminal purposes.
Virginia's regulations for becoming a real Fire Inspector start with no less than an Associates Degree in Fire Protection then proceeding on to a Bachelor of Science degree in Fire Administration. We are talking years of college here folks.
Now lets talk about becoming a "Certified Chimney Sweep". Again, there is no current Virginia State mandated certification available. An if such a certification existed, it certainly would not make you certifiably "honest."
Here are the qualifications for becoming a so-called 'Certified Sweep' developed by another organization meant to educate those entering the field of chimney sweeping, repair and maintenance....
To earn the 'Certified Chimney Sweep' credential, candidates must:
•Attend an online or in-person review session. •Pass a one-hour exam partially based on a book, how to become "successful" at "chimney sweeping" (2009 edition. Incidentally written by another organization that requires Membership dues.) •Pass a ninety-minute open-book exam based on the 2006 International Residential Code. •Agree to pay the Annual Certification Fee. •Sign Code of Ethics.
and That’s it.... in a nutshell.
Even though we have nothing against these Non-State run organizations (whose intentions are well meant) that provide these certifications since they do provide some training and require that the persons whom are affiliated with their organization adhere to their "code of ethics" policy, but once these students are "out the door" we feel that these certifications for the most part can give a person in this industry "a license to steal" by misleading the public into thinking that the chimney sweeps they are hiring have a "certification" that is a "State" gained attribution, or that they are a "State" certified "Fire Inspector".
The typical homeowner has very little knowledge of chimney construction, maintenance and safety of their chimney(s) or vent systems and depends on a professional chimney sweep to give a fair and honest assessment of such and educate them on proper burning techniques, explanation of venting systems, and safety of operation of appliances such as gas logs and wood stoves and their heating systems.
So, I ask my customers, Do you want someone with over 30 years experience in the industry or someone who has passed a 90 minute open book exam and a one hour exam based on Successful Chimney Sweeping?
Choose a professional you can trust. A family owned and operated business that prides itself on the morals of honesty and integrity and the countless years of experience that its founder instilled into us!
LONDON SWEEPS, CHIMNEY SWEEPS