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From Our Editors

Whenever Doug Hetsch's chimney sweeps head out, they always tote along a bag of toys. On his most memorable job, Hetsch snuck one of them up the flue when the homeowner's child—who'd been watching them work—wasn't looking. When the toy tumbled out minutes later, Hetsch picked it up and said casually, "Yeah, these things fall out of Santa's bag all the time." The little girl nearly hyperventilated. Overwhelmed by the experience, and amazed that chimney sweeps were allowed to get dirt on their faces, she ran after Hetsch as he left, saying she wanted to be a chimney sweep when she grew up.

Hetsch expects this kind of service from his crew, all of whom are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. A pilot in his spare time, Hetsch trains his team to deliver service with the diligence of an aviator—always well groomed, crisply uniformed, and able to explain complicated terms in plain, direct language. Using a closed-circuit video scanner, teams create a digital image of each chimney's interior to more accurately assess the job. Based on these renderings, they can adjust cleaning methods, as well as recommend services to bring chimneys up to or beyond current building codes. All American Chimney Service works on smokestacks up to 100 years old, ensuring a safe conduit for smoke or the ghosts of logs originally chopped by Teddy Roosevelt.

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