Wearing a black top hat and tuxedo, Doug Ables of Copperas Cove heads to work — not as a concierge or butler for a wealthy family — but as a chimney sweep.
Ables, 61, owner of Ables Top Hat Chimney Sweeps, is just carrying on a centuries-old tradition that started generations ago in Germany and England.
“Chimney sweeps were the very scourges of society back in the 1700s,” he said. “They were just dirty and filthy-looking. There was this one sweep who walked by a funeral home where the funeral director had thrown out a top hat and tuxedo. So he put it on … it covered the dirt on his uniform and that kind of stuck.”
The formal wear eventually became the traditional uniform for chimney sweeps.
During summer months, Ables wears a T-shirt printed with a tuxedo.
Ables started the chimney sweep business 33 years ago when he was unable to find anyone to clean his chimney.
“I couldn’t get anybody else to do my chimney, and when I asked around, people didn’t know where any chimney sweepers were,” he said “I got tired of hearing that answer and so I got the (tools) myself.”
He now works with his family, cleaning and inspecting chimneys across Central Texas.
Dirty chimneys are very dangerous, Ables said. If not cleaned on a regular basis, they could cause house fires.
“There are areas in the fireplace that people do not see, and we’ve got tools to get in there,” he said. “When I started out, I didn’t (see it) because it’s difficult, but right above the damper is the most dangerous part to get to and most people forget about it.”
Ables is a certified chimney sweep and a member of the Midwest Chimney Safety Council. He runs the business out of his Copperas Cove home but also has offices in Temple and Killeen. Ables plans to expand his services to include cleaning out dryer vents and air conditioning ducts.