Landscaping near chimney poses moisture threat

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Q: We have a 20-year-old home with a brick wood-burning fireplace that has an ash pit. Is the clean-out door usually inside or outside? I can't find a clean-out door outside, but the previous owner did heavy landscaping in front of the chimney so it could be hidden. Also, our basement was refinished and a closet was built where the ash pit door would be, so it could be behind the drywall. The problem is we have water coming in this closet when it rains, and it has caused bad mold. I have had to rip the carpet out of the closet. I decided to do some investigating and cut out a small area of drywall; I found my wood studs rotting from the water. So we have a serious problem here. Could the ash pit be filled and causing this water problem? Some Web sites say ash pits are big enough to hold ashes for a lifetime without cleaning them out. How do I determine where the door to the pit is before I start to tear out the rest of the wallboard? Or should I be focusing on a different problem c...