Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service is warning householders with chimneys to get them swept as they launch their annual chimney fire safety campaign this September.
Many people do not realise the severe damage that can be caused to homes and potential danger to the occupants when a chimney catches fire, especially during the night, say fire officers.
Over the past year, firefighters were called to deal with 114 chimney fires in the county – most of them avoidable, they say.
Many home owners traditionally turn to open fires, Rayburns and wood burners to stay warm during winter’s plunging temperatures.
“This is the time of the year when chimney fires increase simply because people have failed to have their chimneys swept,” warned Becky Castle, of the brigade’s Prevention department.
“A chimney fire leaves a terrible mess in your home with the smell of smoke lingering for weeks. At worst they can lead to a serious house fire as flames spread through the roof space and if this happens at night when everyone is asleep, the results could end in tragedy,” she warned.
People should not use unseasoned wood which leaves tar deposits inside chimneys and flues which can catch fire. There is also the danger of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning from unswept chimneys clogged by soot and smoke. Leaving a fire burning overnight is also dangerous.
Householders should always use a qualified installer to fit a Rayburn. Without it their insurance would be at risk if there was a fire, she said.
Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority member, Councillor Keith Roberts, joined the fire safety campaign saying: “I would encourage all residents with open fires or log burners to have their chimneys and flues swept regularly by an approved chimney sweep.”
People should also ensure they have working smoke alarms and a carbon monoxide monitor installed.
“It would also be a good neighbour to call on any elderly people living nearby to ensure they are protected,” said Becky, whose team is delivering chimney fire safety leaflets to coal merchants and timber yards in Shropshire to hand out to customers.
The brigade outreach vehicle will be at Oswestry Market on September 7 to give out chimney safety advice and give out a carbon monoxide detector to those who sign up sign for a free home fire safety visit. They will also be at Oswestry library on September 7 in the afternoon and at Bridgnorth library on September 9.
In the UK, there are about 7,000 chimney fires each year, most of them preventable. Fires in chimneys can reach temperatures of 1,100 Celsius. For more information about fire safety visit www.shropshirefire.gov.uk
Chimney fires from April 2015 to March 31st 2016 by Shropshire fire station region: Telford (17); Shrewsbury (10); Minsterley (4); North Shropshire total (34): Baschurch (5); Oswestry (10); Ellesmere (3); Prees (3); Whitchurch (7); Market Drayton (6).
South Shropshire total (38): Bridgnorth (9); Cleobury Mortimer (6); Clun (6); Church Stretton (4); Craven Arms (2); Bishops Castle (8); Ludlow (3).
Newport (3); Hodnet (3).
It’s chimney safety week from September 5 to 9. To find a chimney sweep in your area contact The National Association of Chimney Sweeps www.nacs.org.uk/sweep-search/
If you would like to request a free home fire safety visit call Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service Prevention team on 01743 260200.
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You can easily prevent a chimney fire by following our simple steps to safety:
* Remember to have your chimney swept regularly, at least once a year. Your chimney must be kept clean to prevent fires and structural damage to your property. Regular cleaning of your chimney or flues eliminates the build-up of soot and clears obstructions such as bird and animal nests, leaves and debris.
* Ensure your chimney flue is inspected at regular intervals to prevent fire breaking out of the chimney. Go into the loft occasionally when the fire is alight to check for smoke from cracks, defective brickwork or mortar joints.
* Make sure you have appliances installed and serviced by competent engineers.
* There is the danger of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning from chimneys that are clogged by soot and smoke so remember to fit a carbon monoxide detector and never block air bricks, vents or flues.
* Do not use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin to light your fire, or burn paper or rubbish. Also, do not use unseasoned wood which leaves tar deposits inside chimneys and flues which can catch fire.
* Ensure you have a working smoke alarms in your home, which are tested every week.