Have your chimney swept ready for winter

Mon 4 Sep, 2017

Find a chimney sweep near you

Chimney Fire Safety Week, which starts today, provides a timely reminder to make sure your chimney is ready for the winter months ahead.

Over the past 15 years, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service has attended an average of 90 chimney fires every year in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

Between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017, there were 68 chimney fires in Buckinghamshire and 21 in Milton Keynes.

Firefighters are now urging householders to ensure their chimneys are safe, and to have them swept by a professional, qualified sweep.

Richard Priest, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “With the colder part of the year looming, people will begin to start using open fires again.

“All chimneys and flues should be cleaned and checked to ensure they’re free from debris and in full working order before the heating season.

“A blocked or defective chimney can cause carbon monoxide poisoning as well as a fire. Make sure your chimney is swept regularly, depending upon what fuel you burn, and that you have working smoke alarms in your home and test them once a week.”

Recommended frequencies are:

  • 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.

Richard's top tips for safer chimneys

  • Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers.
  • Make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed.
  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained.
  • If you have recently opened up or about to start to use a fireplace, make sure it is inspected by a qualified person.
  • When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only. Never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper.
  • 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.
  • Ensure wood burners are installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Make sure the appliance receives enough air to allow the fuel to burn properly. Consider having a carbon monoxide detector fitted.

What causes chimney fires?

  • Chimney fires usually occur because the deposits of combustion are left within the flueways.
  • By definition, a chimney fire is the burning of soot or creosote within the appliance, outlet or flue system, which can result in improper function of the appliance, damage to the flue, house or surrounding structures and can even start a house fire.
  • Chimney fires are usually started when high temperatures or flames from a very hot fire extend into the appliance outlet or flue and the ignition of the combustible deposits within occurs.

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