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09/03/2020

Chimney Safety

Open fires or wood burners are appealing, but they need to be maintained.

Chimney fire and safety

Last year (April 2021 to March 2022) we attended 43 chimney fires – an increase of 19 per cent on those recorded the previous year.

By having your chimney flue professionally swept and regularly inspected, you can help to prevent a chimney fire occurring at your property.

When wood or coal is burnt, gasses are given off. These turn into soot and tar (creosote) which accumulates on the inside of the chimney. Occasionally loose bricks, birds nests and other debris can fall down within a chimney, acting as fuel.

A blocked or defective chimney can cause carbon monoxide poisoning as well as a fire, so regular inspection and cleaning of chimney flues can help to identify and eliminate issues before they become a problem.

How often you should have your chimney swept depends on the fuel you are burning. The recommended chimney sweeping frequencies are:

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

Between professional cleans and checks, you can complete chimney health checks yourself by being vigilant for grass or moss growing out of your chimney, checking that the chimney is not starting to lean to one side, and looking out for mortar that has fallen into the fireplace or wood burning stove.

If one of these is seen, call a professional chimney sweep as soon as possible.

Don’t forget, wood burning stoves need to be serviced annually as well!

What NOT To Do

Burning paper
  • Do not start to use a fire or wood burner if the chimney has not been professionally swept.
  • Do not store fuel or log baskets close to an open fire or wood burner, where they can be affected by radiated heat.
  • Do not burn refuse such as cardboard boxes or waste paper in an open fire or wood burner.

What TO Do

Fireguard
  • Service wood burners once a year
  • Have chimneys professionally cleaned in line with the recommendations for the type of fuel you are burning
  • Ensure embers are put out before you go to bed – don’t leave them to die down
  • Use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers
  • Keep the area around your chimney clear, in the loft / roof space
  • Check the brickwork on your chimney is sound and that the sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks
  • Keep vents clear to ensure there is enough air flow to allow the fuel to burn properly

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