Is your chimney ready for winter?

Mon 7 Sep, 2015

Chimney Fire Safety Week (7 to 13 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, firefighters are urging householders to ensure their chimneys are safe, and to have them swept by a professional, qualified chimney 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 flueways 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.

Latest statistics

Latest statistics show that there are about 6,000 chimney fires a year in England.

There were 88 chimney fires (73 in Buckinghamshire and 15 in Milton Keynes) between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015, which is lower than the average of the previous four years.

Chimney fires in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, 2010-2015:

  • 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)
  • 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 - 88 (Aylesbury Vale 29, Chiltern 15, Milton Keynes 15, South Bucks 15, Wycombe 14)

Related links