Duck in the damper — fowl found in Barrington chimney


David Kopec was in for a little surprise when he attempted to clean the chimney at an Olive Lane home recently.

The co-owner of A-Tec Chimney Sweeps could see the six inches of ash sitting in the bottom of the fireplace, but he was completely unaware of the male wood duck that was sitting on top of the fireplace damper. The moment Mr. Kopec opened the damper, the duck, which was alive and well, fell into the pile of ash in the fireplace, spreading a small cloud of gray throughout Susie Cabassas' living room.

Ms. Cabassas said Mr. Kopec handled the wild animal encounter like a true professional. While Ms. Cabassas and a technician held a tarp over the fireplace opening to keep the ash at bay, Mr. Kopec crawled into the fireplace and swaddled the nervous duck with a beach towel. He then walked the duck outside, posed for a quick photo, and then released the seemingly healthy animal into the air. The duck flew directly to the Barrington River for a quick dip in the water.

"We run into ducks a lot," Mr. Kopec said on Wednesday, June 19, while finishing up some additional work to Ms. Cabassas' chimney. "They're real clumsy. If they fall into a chimney, they can't get out.

"This one was in good shape. He'd only been in there a day or so."

Ms. Cabassas said she had no idea a duck was stuck in her chimney — she had not heard any noise. And the fact that a chimney sweep located the duck before it died inside the chimney was a bit of good luck. Ms. Cabassas said she had not had the brick chimney swept since 1983, but after burning a fair amount of wood this past winter she figured she should have someone examine the chimney. The visit from A-Tec crew just happened to occur a day or two after the duck fell — or flew — into the chimney.

"I had them (the workers) over and then I hear 'Ma'am, you have a duck in your chimney,'" Ms. Cabassas said. "The timing worked out well for the duck... That was one lucky duck."

Mr. Kopec said he's been in the business for 15 years and he's come across ducks, owls, raccoons, squirrels, and even bats living in peoples' chimneys. He said he sees a lot of baby animals in chimneys during the spring months.

"We've seen it all," he said.

Ms. Cabassas said A-Tec did a great job cleaning the chimney and the area around the fireplace. She said Mr. Kopec and his team also fixed a broken gutter for free and later installed a cap with a screen around the top of the chimney.

"That's the best way to keep the animals out," added Mr. Kopec.


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