Getting your grill on? Fire up these safety tips

Barnabas Health, Sponsored Content

Fire safety doesn’t stop when you step outdoors. While summer is the perfect time to savor the flavors that grilling provides, it also is a time to maintain safety practices to avoid fires. How many fires? An average of 8,900 home fires a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which notes that three out of five households own a gas grill.


July is the peak month for grill fires (17 percent), including both structure, outdoor or unclassified fires, followed by May, June and August, according to the NFPA. Failure to clean the grill was the leading factor contributing to the fire in 19 percent of all grill structure fires, followed by something that could catch fire being too close to the grill (17 percent) and leaks or breaks (11 percent), according to the organization.

The following grilling fire safety tips are offered by the U.S. Fire Administration, which notes that patios, terraces, screened-in porches and courtyards are leading home locations for grill fires:

  • Only use grills outdoors, away from siding and deck railings.
  • Clean grills often and remove grease or fat build-up.
  • Make sure the gas grill lid is open before lighting.
  • Have a three-foot safe-zone around grills and campfires. Keep children and pets clear of the area.
  • Dispose of coals after they have cooled in a metal can.
  • Never leave grills, fire pits and patio torches unattended.

Safe food handling outdoors

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers the following tips to prevent foodborne illness:
Wash hands: Wash hands well and often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after using the bathroom and before cooking or eating.
Keep raw and cooked food separate: Don’t use a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood for anything else unless the plate has first been washed in hot, soapy water.

Only marinate food in the refrigerator: Never reuse marinade that contained raw meat.
Cook food thoroughly: To kill any harmful bacteria that may be present, remember to pack and use a food thermometer. Hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees, chicken to at least 165 degrees.

Get your taste buds ready for grilling!



Grilling & Smoking Tips

Beginning Saturday, April 9th through April 30th we will be demonstrating the new Saber gas, Green Mountain pellet, and the Vision charcoal grills we sell. The Event will be held at our showroom on Saturdays between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.

Saber Gas Grills

Turn out great tasting steaks and chops on this three-burner, full-sized grill loaded with features any cook would love--integrated electronic ignition, halogen lights and an 18,000 BTU side burner that can boil 15 quarts of water in 18 minutes. It's built to last with premium materials and uses SABER's advanced infrared technology to

give you maximum performance and value for your investment.



Green Mountain Pellet Grills

Traeger and Louisiana Grills used to be pretty much the only game in town for pellet smokers less than a grand, but Green Mountain Grills changed that in 2008 and has run up significant sales numbers. They make two residential smokers, one large trailer smoker and recently introduced a small portable model.  They also offer pellets, sauces, rubs and various accessories.

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Vision Kamado Charcoal Grill

The Signature Series Plaza sets a new standard for Kamado grilling. With its gorgeous rattan-style ceramic finish and mahogany-stained folding slat shelves, the Plaza is turning the heads of even the most seasoned grillers. The Plaza also boasts a feature-rich grilling experience with its innovative ProZone™ ash drawer, two-tiered stainless steel cooking grates, and calibrated smoker knobs. Whether grilling, smoking, baking, making pizzas or searing, the Plaza effortlessly meets

your every outdoor cooking need.



Building a fire . . . in the fireplace

By Globe Staff  February 05, 2016

Who doesn’t love a fire in a fireplace? Hardly anyone, apparently — these days you can even download a virtual crackling file on an app. But if mobile fire pits aren’t your thing and you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, you may need a refresher course on how to safely build a fire. We turned to an expert, Erwin Liverman of E. Liverman Chimney Cleaning Co. in Newton. Liverman started working as a chimney sweep with his dad when he was 7, and now he’s 69. His advice:

1 The harder the better. Use hardwood such as oak or maple to build the fire. The wood should be aged at least a year and be completely dry. “When wood is crackling or hissing, it means there’s a fair amount of water content in the wood, and it casts out sparks,” said Liverman. Not only is that dangerous, but it causes greater build-up on the inside of the chimney.

2 Pay it backward. Keep the fire toward the very back of the fireplace, Liverman cautions. The further back the fire is, the less chance of getting smoke in the room. Raise up the wood slightly on a grate or a pair of andirons, or even bricks. “The purpose is to get the wood up off the floor so the air can get underneath, enter the fireplace, and pull smoke up the chimney.”

3 Keep circulating. Check to be sure the damper is fully open before lighting any paper or wood. What, you ask, is a damper? It’s the rectangular piece of cast iron inside the chimney that prevents cold air from coming into the house. Open it fully when you’re building a fire so the smoke doesn’t come back in the house, and close it only once the fire is completely out.

4 Light it up. Loosely crumple up some newspaper and place it under the fire grate or andirons. Place some twigs or kindling on top of the grate, against the back wall of the chimney. Twist a few pieces of newspaper into the shape of a torch, set it alight, hold it up inside the chimney at the damper height for 10 or 20 seconds to start warming the flue, then drop the paper onto the small pile of wood. After the wood has ignited, add the larger logs on top in a criss-cross shape, leaving a small space between the logs.

5 Be careful! Remember, you’re lighting a fire in your home. “Fireplaces give you emotional and visual heat more than strong, radiant heat,” said Liverman. “A big fire will not necessarily give you much more.” His recommendation? “Enjoy a two- to three-hour-long fire for two to four hours, and then let the fire die down. You’ve had your enjoyment for the evening.”


Green Mountain Early Bird Special





Green Mountain Grills

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The reason that pellet grills win far more than their fair share of BBQ competitions is that the food simply tastes better when cooked over real wood. Propane has absolutely no taste, and the process of making briquettes destroys the flavor molecules in the wood they are made from. Our pellets are made from clean, kiln-dried sawdust, with the flavor molecules totally intact! And what could be easier than pushing a button - set it and forget it! Now you can "turn pro" in your own back yard.

We discovered something we loved, REALLY loved. It was grilling with much better than either charcoal or gas! But the pellet grill we owned needed some improvements, so we decided to make our own! Then loved it so much we ended up starting our own company! Green Mountain Pellet Grills is now the top-of-line...the best-of-the-best, but not the highest in price!

| 712-566-9371 | |

RCCH, 23767 McPherson Avenue, Council Bluffs, IA 51503


A Better Barbecue™…Experience



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SABER grills combine Performance, Innovation, and Affordability. We have incorporated features that allow you to relax and enjoy serving delicious food to your family and guests.

All Saber® grills cook with 100% Infrared heat locking the natural juices and moisture into your food. Our patented cooking system vents convective air, which dries your food out, away from the cooking surface. Flare-ups are eliminated and foods cook more quickly and efficiently.

SABER® grills heat from 0 to 700F in 10 minutes or less and our patented Infrared Cooking System allows for a wide range of temperatures.

Easier and Faster Assembly: Streamlined assembly steps using a single common fastener and more factory pre-assembly means you will be grilling sooner with a SABER® grill.

Simple and Easy Fuel Conversion: Easily change fuel sources from propane to natural gas, or for built-in grills from natural gas to propane, using our patented EZNG or EZLP conversion kit. (sold separately)

Every SABER® grill has an electronic ignition point at EVERY burner plus a redundant “carry-over” ignition system that ensures a reliable and safe start every time you grill.

Better for the Environment: BTU’s have nothing to do with cooking performance, but everything to do with how often you refill your propane tank or the size of your gas bill. You can no cook faster with fewer BTU’s, reducing your gas consumption by 30%, which makes it good for both your wallet and the environment.

River City Featured in the Bent Tree View Magazine

IMG_8027The following article was published in the October 2015 issue of the Bent Tree View magazine.  At River City Chimney & Hearth, we are proud to service our Bent Tree neighbors.

River City Chimney & Hearth: Service & Safety Inspections Right In Your Back Yard

Written By: Shawnelle Alley

Karen and Ron Waschkowski, owners of River City Chimney and Hearth located in the Bent Tree area, have serviced over 8,000 chimneys from 2003 to current, according to Ron. “Our services include sales, installations, inspections, repairs, cleaning, sweeps and inspections of gas and wood burning fireplaces,” Ron said. In July 2013, they celebrated the grand opening of the River City Chimney and Hearth showroom, and Ron said, “Our dream was always to have our own storefront.”

The Washkowski’s experienced a desire to embrace their dreams after Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer; she is in her 4th year as a survivor.  Ron said, “Wellness caused us to take the leap. We are really glad we did. Now our customers have a showroom to see a variety of installed product and options.” He added that

people should follow their dreams; life is short.

In explaining the chimney sweeping process, Ron said, “We are very clean and thorough. We inspect based on NFPA 211 (National Fire Protection Agency), using the most current manual.” He said, “Tarps are laid out in the house. We use a special vacuum that filters the air to keep soot out of the house. A chim-scan (camera) is attached to the brush and is run up the chimney to inspect the structure and flue.” He added, “Defects are not always visible without the camera.”

Ron said he would tell first-time gas or wood-burning fireplace owners the importance of safety: keep the fireplace and chimney clean and inspected, have a mid- to large-size fire extinguisher and proper smoke and heat detectors in the home. “I encourage families to have an exit strategy and to know where the gas shut-off valve is located.

“One of our services is to locate the gas valve in the basement and label it for the homeowner. We want them to be able to go right to it and sometimes they don’t know where to locate it until we find it and label it fireplace for them,” Ron said.

There are a wide variety of materials available to personalize a customer’s fireplace. Ron said popular choices are brick, marble and stone. River City Chimney and Hearth offers “a wide variety of beautiful fireplace accessories and several high quality brands of wood and gas fireplaces, inserts and stoves,” Karen said.

Ron added that they sell a lot of Astria, Ironstike and Heatilator products.

“They are high quality fireplaces and Heatilator is made right here in Iowa. We want to support Iowa’s economy as much as possible; if it is made here and sold here, all the revenue stays in the state. I am loyal.” Ron said he believes they can be supportive to U.S. manufacturers and have a great product. “We also carry Napoleon, Valor, RSF and more. We also sell and install caps, dampers, fireplace doors and screens,” Karen said.

New construction installations take about a half a day and installations in existing structures take 1-2 days, according to Ron. He said they help their customers stay with the era of their structure. If the home is a large Victorian, Ron said he will help the homeowner find the best product to fit the  15 application. He acknowledged this is one of the fun parts of his job because he loves happy customers. Karen added, “We have an extended line of product and the latest EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approved units.” The units meet or exceed emission standards.

Karen said, “Some people use fireplaces for ambiance, or to save money; they put out a lot of heat.” Ron explained that their fireplaces have a high efficiency rating of about 70 percent, which is high for fireplaces.

Relining chimneys is a common repair, and Ron said sometimes the flue is cracked. He said hearth and mantle work are available and Mark Sornsen & Sons subcontract to install these products, which often are granite, marble, stone and wood – all custom-made.  

River City Chimney and Hearth has multi-fuel stoves, which burn wood pellets or corn, according to Ron. “These are really popular in a healthy economy and a source of heat with a renewable resource.” He said, “We should use our natural resources and wood burning is a clean with today’s technology. Emissions are measured in grams per hour and pellet stoves have lower emission levels.” Ron travels to Missouri to train others in the industry.

Karen said it is common for the fireplace to fog up upon initial ignition, but the glass clears quickly as the temperature rises. “We wanted to create a space in the showroom that is very cozy and visually inviting. We want to show customers options from the contemporary to traditional in style,” she said.

According to Ron, it is very important to have both gas and wood burning fireplaces inspected and cleaned annually. He said, “Propane has an additive, methanol, which causes a buildup of residue in the burner assembly. Bugs and spiders love this stuff and nest in it, blocking air flow. The soot build up can restrict ignition.”

Because people live in different environments, sometimes they are unsure of the product that would work best in their home. Ron said they help people explore their options by discussing things like lifestyle and architecture.. For more information, people can “like” River City Chimney and Hearth on Facebook, visit

the website at Visitors are welcome at their showroom.

The River City Chimney and Hearth motto is: “We provide safety, comfort, and peace of mind.”

Ron said the person who had the most influence in his life was his deceased father-in-law, Bob, who was the owner of RD Blue Construction. “I miss him every day; he was a constant and wise voice. Bob was a mentor and a highly respected business man.” Karen said her mother, Carolyn Blue, has remained their biggest emotional support and has had unwavering confidence in their vision. Ron and Karen, married 24 years, have four children and seven grandchildren.

Karen would love to go to the Kentucky Derby and Yellowstone National Park some day. Ron has a dream to take Karen to Germany to visit his father’s family and see a World Cup soccer game.  Ron’s father was an immigrant who came to America to study agriculture and fell in love and stayed.

Ron said he understands the value of hard work and learning. Karen encouraged Ron to get his general education diploma and enroll at Iowa Western College for his associate degree and his CSI Certification. Now he takes continuing education courses, including a mandatory 12 hours of OSHA training yearly. Karen said, “There is so much more to sweeping and repairing chimneys and abiding by safety procedures than the public realizes.”

Contact Information

River City Chimney & Hearth

23767 McPherson Ave.


GMG Vs. Traeger

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Stop by River City Chimney & Hearth today at
23767 McPherson Ave, Council Bluffs, Iowa
Call 712-566-9371 (Iowa) or 402-571-3539 (Nebraska)

Labor Day Special on Green Mountain Pellet Grills

GMG Labor Day Sale

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Tailgating season is upon us and the Davy Crockett pellet grill is the ultimate tailgater. They're on sale now through September 7th for just $374.
Visit our showroom in Council Bluffs, Iowa for more information. Or call 712-566-9371 (Council Bluffs) / 402-571-3539 (Omaha) and get your grill game on!

We Sell Green Mountain Grills

In Grilling, Taste Rules…
The reason that pellet grills win far more than their fair share of BBQ competitions is that the food simply tastes better when cooked over real wood. Propane has absolutely no taste, and the process of making briquettes destroys the flavor molecules in the wood they are made from. Green Mountain Grill pellets are made from clean, kiln-dried sawdust, with the flavor molecules totally intact! And what could be easier than pushing a button – set it and forget it! Now you can “turn pro” in your own back yard.
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Stop by our showroom in Council Bluffs, Iowa to see what the Green Mountain Grills are about!

6 Signs That Your Chimney Needs to Be Repaired

damaged chimney

You can’t always tell by looking at it that your chimney isn’t safe and sound. There are, however, some visible signs that repair may be needed. Since chimney safety is equivalent to safety from obvious fire hazards, every homeowner with a chimney should become familiar with telltale signs of damage.

1-Damaged Mortar Joints
It may require a rooftop vantage point to spot, but damaged mortar joints between chimney masonry is an issue which should be hastily repaired. Failing mortar joints can mean accelerated damage to the chimney, since the condition exposes the bricks to greater amounts of moisture. When water gets into small cracks in the masonry, they can turn into large cracks, particularly as a result of freezing and thawing. Ultimately, if the problem isn’t addressed, the chimney could collapse.

2-Rusted Damper or Firebox
Signs of moisture in a chimney or fireplace are red flags that the chimney isn’t operating the way it should. Rust is one clue that there is too much moisture, and you may see rust in the firebox or on the damper. You’ll know to take a close look at the damper if it becomes difficult to operate or if it isn’t sealing properly.
Moisture in the chimney which causes rusting can create numerous problems, including causing flue tiles to crack. A cracked or deteriorated flue lining is highly dangerous, since it could allow too much heat into vulnerable areas and cause a house fire.

3-Spalling Bricks
Spalling occurs when water enters brick, natural stone, or concrete and forces the surface of the masonry to pop out, peel off, or flake off. Sometimes salt also pushes outward from the inside and causes spalling. It’s fairly simple to spot spalling, since bits of masonry fall from the chimney. The ultimate outcome of failing to repair spalling masonry is continued crumbling and eventual destruction of the structure.

4-Shaling Flue Tiles
Thin slices of chimney tile can begin to pile up at the bottom of the chimney, if the liner is damaged. Cracked and shaling flue tiles are signs of a serious condition which, if not resolved, could result in a house fire. The flue lining of a chimney must be intact in order to safely use a fireplace. Many people today are switching to stainless steel liners, which usually carry lifetime warranties.
While shaling flue tiles can become evident, identifying cracked flue liners often requires an inspection by a professional chimney sweep who uses a special camera. The camera can spotlight potential problems in the flue which are difficult if not impossible to see otherwise.

5-Cracked Chimney Crown
Another problem that requires a visit to the rooftop to spot is a damaged chimney crown. It’s important for the crown to be in good condition, since it provides a first line of defense against outdoor elements. When the crown is cracked, water gets in and freezes and thaws, causing larger cracks. A damaged chimney crown allows moisture to seep between the chimney and the liner as well as into the chimney, which can cause shaling and spalling.
A great preventative measure against this type of damage is to weatherproof the chimney crown and, while you’re at it, the chimney itself.

6-Damaged Wallpaper
If you notice that the wallpaper is damaged in areas near the chimney, it could be because of excess moisture in the chimney. Whether the moisture problem is caused by above-named conditions or others that are less obvious, it should be repaired without delay.
It’s smart to be alert to problems with your chimney, but it’s even better to trust a professional chimney sweep to do a thorough cleaning and inspection annually. Schedule your annual cleaning in the spring and summer so that there is plenty of time to make repairs before the return of chilly weather.

River City Chimney & Hearth inspects and repairs chimneys in the Council Bluffs/Omaha Metro and surrounding Iowa and Nebraska communities. Contact us to inspect your chimney today.

Content Curtsey of:
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.