The biggest issue with a wood burning fireplace is that wood never burns completely. Wood smoke is a combination of unburned gases and a fog of unburned tar-like liquids. When they come in contact with a cool surface they will condense and form a nasty substance called Creosote. Creosote is highly combustible and can leave an undesirable odor. When allowed to form a blanket in the interior walls of the fireplace, it could result in a chimney fire. Other dangers can be: faulty dampers, obstructions in the flue pipe, deterioration, exposed wood, and no chimney cap/spark arrestor. This is all part of the chimney inspection and cleaning process.
When looking for a chimney sweep look for one that cares. A chimney sweep that cares belongs to The National Chimney Sweep Guild
and National Fire Protection Association.
They have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and good reviews on line with longevity. They should carry General Liability along with Workers Compensation even if they are self employed. As a homeowner you should always be protected when you have someone working on your property. With all this you will know that this sweep is knowledgeable of the trade and using current state of the art equipment and cares about you as a customer.
There is only one question I can ask about cleaning your own chimney. Does your vacuum move 350 cubic feet of air a minute enough to clean the air in a 10'x10' room every two minutes. Does it remove the smallest particles down to .5 micron (a millionth part of a meter?) If not, do not attempt the process or you will be calling out the restoration company to clean all the soot from the inside of your house. Leave it up to the professional that specializes in chimney cleaning that knows what he is looking for.
For more information, contact Rebecca at Arizona Chimney Sweep