Making a clean sweep for safety

Thu 4 Sep, 2014

Chimney Fire Safety Week (8 to 14 September) provides a timely reminder to make sure 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, 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 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 bottom of the page.

Neil'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.


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

There were 126 chimney fires (107 in Buckinghamshire and 19 in Milton Keynes), between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014, which is the same as the average of the previous four years.

Chimney fires in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, 2009-2014:

  • 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)
  • 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014 - 126 (Aylesbury Vale 44, Chiltern 15, Milton Keynes 19, South Bucks 21, Wycombe 27)

Related links