Credit the classic Walt Disney musical Mary Poppins for our romanticized vision of chimney sweeps. In reality, there aren't many Cockney-accented, ash-hatted lovable rogues skipping roof-to-roof. But chimney sweeps have weathered challenges to their business over the years and managed to persevere. "Chimney sweeps are still very much in demand," says Melissa Heeke, spokeswoman for the National Chimney Sweep Guild. "In fact, with annual chimney inspections recommended by a growing number of authorities, chimney service is here to stay." New, modern technology once threatened the livelihood of the traditional chimney sweep. The trade has adapted. "Chimney sweeps do so much more than simply sweep wood-burning fireplaces," Heeke says. "Gas logs, furnaces burning almost any fuel type and even clothes dryers have vents which need to be inspected and maintained regularly. Chimney inspections are also recommended upon the sale of a home and after natural disasters like earthquakes and floods to ensure that the heating appliance is venting as efficiently as possible." There have been approximately 5,000 chimney sweep companies nationwide for the past several years. "That number fluctuates seasonally, as it is easy for anyone to call themselves a chimney sweep in this mostly unregulated trade," Heeke says, suggesting that consumers "do their homework before hiring a chimney sweep, or any other contractor, to come into your home. "