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Five basic steps to prevent chimney fires

With cooler weather around the corner and the nights beginning to draw in, many people will soon be firing up their fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.

Although open fires and wood burners undeniably add heat and ambience to a home, it’s important to remember that over 6,000 chimney fires occur in England each year.

In the last year, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue attended 146 fires that started in a chimney – and many of these could have been prevented if precautions had been taken.

Chimney fires happen when soot or creosote deposits in the chimney catch light due to high temperatures or flames from a very hot fire extending into the outlet.

All chimney fires are extremely dangerous as internal flue temperatures can reach 1,100 degrees Celsius and heat radiated through chimney walls can cause a devastating house fire – especially in properties with thatched or wooden roofs.

Flames or sparks can leap from the chimney top or through cracks in the flue and ignite the roof or other parts of the house.

The bricks of the chimney can become hot enough to combust thatch, wooden beams – even adjoining houses or nearby trees.

Fire safety tips

Therefore, it’s important to remember a few basic fire safety tips to make sure you’re not at risk.

First of all, always make sure you have a working smoke alarm fitted to each floor of your house. They help save lives by giving you earlier warning of a fire and extra seconds to get out. Make sure, too, that you have a fire escape plan.

Chimney fires most commonly result from four basic causes – infrequent sweeping and cleaning, burning of unseasoned wood, improper appliance sizing, or overnight burning or smouldering of wood for long periods in wood burners.

So to reduce the risk of a fire, make sure your chimney is swept regularly by a professional, qualified chimney sweep such as those certified by the National Association of Chimney Sweeps.

Only burn seasoned wood purchased from reputable suppliers and make sure your wood burner isn’t too large for your room, always following manufacturer’s instructions for fuel loading and air flow.

Use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers, and make sure the fire is completely out before you go to bed.

Also, remember that if you are in a rented property, your landlord has a duty of care towards you as a tenant to repair and maintain heaters and fuel burners.

Make sure your family can safely enjoy a cosy fire – take the proper precautions before the cold weather sets in.

For more fire safety information, please see the Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue website.

Would you like more advice or a free Home Fire Safety Check? Please email the Community Fire Safety department or call 01522 582222.