Making a clean sweep for safety

Wed 4 Sep, 2013


With summer drawing to a close, Chimney Fire Safety Week (9 to 15 September) provides a timely reminder to make sure that your chimney is ready for the winter months ahead.

As part of the national Fire Kills campaign, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is urging householders to ensure their chimneys are safe, and to have them swept by a registered chimney sweep.

Neil Boustred, from 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 and their chimneys again.

“All chimneys and flue-ways should be cleaned and checked during the summer months 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 top of the page.

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.



Latest statistics show that there are about 7,000 chimney fires a year in England.

There were 106 chimney fires (94 in Buckinghamshire and 12 in Milton Keynes), between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2013, compared with an average of 133 (111 in Buckinghamshire and 22 in Milton Keynes) over the previous three years.

Chimney fires in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, 2009-13

1 April 2009 to 31 March 2010 - 148
Aylesbury Vale 48, Chiltern 20, Milton Keynes 27, South Bucks 16, Wycombe 37

1 April 2010 to 31 March 2011 - 142
Aylesbury Vale 44, Chiltern 25, Milton Keynes 19, South Bucks 18, Wycombe 36

1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012 - 109
Aylesbury Vale 37, Chiltern 14, Milton Keynes 19, South Bucks 10, Wycombe 29

1 April 2012 to 31 March 2013 - 106
Aylesbury Vale 35, Chiltern 16, Milton Keynes 12, South Bucks 13, Wycombe 30