VIRGINIA BEACH It's a great place to huddle up and keep warm, but if not maintained properly a fireplace could pose serious dangers.

The Virginia Beach Fire Department says it has responded to an increase amount of chimney fires this winter.

Last Friday flames erupted from a fireplace inside a home on Thamesford Drive in Virginia Beach. Two people died, and several more were injured.

'A lot of people think it's as easy as you throw the firewood in, you have a fire and that's it, but there's a lot more to it than that,' said Thomas Benfield, of A Step in Time Structural Engineering.

Over time, Benfield says residue builds up inside chimneys, and if not properly cleaned, could ignite.

Fire officials recommend getting fireplaces and chimneys inspected once a year.

Authorities also warn a major contributor to house fires is improperly disposed ashes.

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