Listen for that hissin'

Thought I’d check the damper in this nice fireplace, so I pulled out the big marshmellows and looked up inside for the handle. No handle, just a 2" washer welded on to the damper plate that you grabbed to push up and open the damper.
It seemed to be stuck and made a wierd squeaking sound, so I let it down then pushed it up again. This time it made multiple squeaks… then it let out a real loud nasty hiss.
There was no spark arrestor and a family of raccoons was living on top of the damper including some babies and one real irritated mother.
I laughed a little before remembering that raccoons here sometimes carry distemper or rabies and a big one is capable of biting off your finger.

Been there, done that. I’m always cautious now.