One business in DeSoto County contains the only certified chimney sweep in the state of Mississippi.
Joshua Berryhill owns and operates Sweet Sweeps, a local business that cleans and inspects chimneys, gas logs and wood-burning stoves at properties in the area. Sweet Sweeps, which is part of the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce and is affiliated with the Better Business Bureau, has been open for about a year and currently has a five-star rating.
"Anything you need done with a chimney, I pretty much do it," Berryhill said. "I enjoy doing it. I've been doing it for several years. It's something I'm very passionate about. It's one of the oldest professions in the world. It's kind of like an art, so I really enjoy it."
Berryhill has been doing chimney sweeping for about eight years and previously managed a larger company for six years until he decided to branch out on his own. While there are about seven or eight certified chimney sweeps in the Memphis area, Berryhill is the only one to service DeSoto County. He is certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. He explained that becoming certified is a long process involving several tests and seminars and that chimney sweeps must be certified every three years.
Berryhill said that chimney sweeping keeps him out of trouble and in a way "saved his life." After landing into trouble in his younger years, he met an older gentleman who gave him a book about chimneys and chimney sweeps. Berryhill started reading, and he has been fascinated ever since.
Having attended conventions and traveled all over the world to learn about chimneys, Berryhill is not only passionate about the techniques of chimney sweeps but about their history as well.
"I actually have a lot of old newspaper articles about chimney sweeps at my house," Berryhill said. "I collect them. I have them dated back to 1818. All types of people had chimney sweeps. There's all types of newspaper articles with certain stories to go behind chimney sweeps."
Home inspectors require anyone buying or selling a home to get their home inspected by a certified chimney sweep. According to Berryhill, chimney sweeps also provide many important, potentially life-saving benefits.
"It's a great industry," Berryhill said. "It protects a lot of people because there's so many chimney fires each year, and there's not a lot of fireplace and chimney awareness out there. It helps preventive maintenance, and it actually saves lives because a chimney fire can burn down a home and people can be asleep when it happens. So if you're not having your chimney inspected annually, you could have huge issues."
Sweet Sweeps, which runs around 499 calls a year, also works to repair water damage and remove animals from chimneys, and Berryhill said that he has seen anything from raccoons to snakes. He is also licensed to operate lift trucks when he cannot reach certain chimneys.
"I can do just about anything you need done to a chimney," Berryhill said. "I can tear one down and build it back up or service the one you got. It's a great thing to do. You get to meet a lot of neat people. It's definitely fun. I enjoy it quite a bit."
Brent Walker is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.