This is not “Mary Poppins.”

And Jim Cowley is not a Dick Van Dyke-type chimney sweep.

“We get people all the time: ‘Where’s your top hat? Will you sing for us?’” said Jim Cowley, 25, of Mays Landing, a chimney worker with Davis Brothers Chimney Sweep & Masonry in Egg Harbor Township.

What you don’t see in the movies are the animals — dead, alive, hiding.

“We’ve found our fair share of live animals in there that people didn’t know they had,” Cowley said.

And Cowley and his coworkers don’t just sweep chimneys. A lot of the job is masonry work, dealing with brick, stone and cinderblock instead of soot.

On Monday, Cowley effortlessly guided a high-powered saw, slicing into a chimney in Millville that needed a new liner to protect against a fire.

White chips of stucco and cement flew in all directions. Cowley’s brown hair was tinted gray with cement specks and he was covered in dirt.

And the job’s far from over. Cowley said he will probably be working on the house for the rest of the week.

“My girlfriend isn’t very fond of the laundry she gets stuck with doing,” Cowley said.

This is the beginning of the busy season as people prepare chimneys for the winter, Cowley said.

About 300,000 New Jersey residents use wood as a primary or secondary heating source, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Cowley said older homes usually have a chimney even if they don’t have a fireplace.

Not long into the work at the Millville home, Cowley could tell the job was “going to be a pain.”

In order to reline the chimney, he had to cut a hole in the outside. Most chimneys are made of cinderblock — easy to cut through — but this one was solid concrete with rebar running through it.

“Could look like the easiest job, and then you open up a can of worms,” Cowley said.

But that comes with the job, Cowley said. He doesn’t know what the chimney’s made of until he cuts into it, or how hard the job is until he starts. There are surprises.

“You’re not doing the same thing over and over and over,” Cowley said. “It’s such a wide range.”



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