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Avoid the flames spreading further than the fireplace

Recent incidents spark safety message for those with log burners, open fires, or kitchen ranges.

With low seasonal temperatures, many people are tempted to make use of their log burner, woodburning stove, open fire, or kitchen range to help generate a cosy atmosphere.

Following three recent incidents, firefighters are keen to remind those with working chimneys or stoves of some simple safety tips which could help avoid the flames spreading further than the fireplace.

Firefighters were called out on Sunday (23 January 2022) to tackle a fire in the roof of a home in Weedon, which had started from embers left in a wood burning stove. The day before (Saturday 22 January 2022) crews had responded to chimney fires in South Heath and in Downley.

Joanne Cook, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s Community Safety Team, said:

“Open fires can generate a warm cosy glow in the home, so it is understandable that those with working chimneys and stoves would choose to make use of them at this time of year. However, this weekend’s incidents highlight the risks that they can bring.

“We are keen to raise awareness of safety advice which relates specifically to woodburning stoves, as well as reminding people of the basic safety tips we offer to anyone considering lighting up a fire, stove or range.

Safety advice if you have a woodburning stove

  • Before using a new woodburning stove, check your installer has supplied a carbon monoxide alarm, fitted a notice plate and given you the manual.
  • If you are having a wood, solid fuel or biomass burner fitted to your home, choose a HETAS registered engineer.
  • When you have a wood, solid fuel or biomass burner fitted, it’s a legal requirement for your installer to give you a compliance certificate.
  • Always use the fuel the manufacturer recommends for your burner.
  • Single skin stainless steel liners should never be used with wood or multi fuel burners.
  • Stainless steel flue liners should be replaced after 15 to 20 years.

General safety advice relating to chimneys and flues

Indoor stoves, log burners, open fires and non-electric cooking ranges all make use of chimneys and flues to remove the products of the combustion process out of the house and into the atmosphere. To avoid the risk of a fire, chimneys and flues should be cleaned and checked regularly to ensure they are free from debris and nests and in full working order.

Jo provided the following advice:

“To avoid the risks a blocked or defective chimney or flue can bring, please make sure your chimney is swept regularly, and that you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home. We recommend testing alarms once a month to check they will sound the alert when you need them to.”

Depending on the type of fuel you are burning, the frequency recommended for sweeping your chimney will differ:

  • Smokeless coal – at least once a year
  • Wood – up to four times a year
  • Bituminous coal – twice a year
  • Oil or gas – once a year

To find a certified chimney sweep, follow the links at the bottom of the page.

Top tips for safer chimneys

  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained.
  • If you have recently opened up, or are about to start to use, a fireplace make sure it is inspected by a qualified person.
  • Inspect your chimney breast, particularly in the roof space. Make sure that it is sound and that the sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks.
  • When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only. Never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper.
  • Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers.
  • Don’t leave or store combustibles close to the fire source, leave a good space between as heat could transfer through direct contact and cause a fire.
  • Make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed.

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