CHIMNEY FIRES WARNING

Firefighters in chimney fire checks in Shropshire home
Firefighters use thermal imaging to check for "hotspots" after a chimney fire.
11th November, 2014

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued an appeal for people to have their chimneys swept as they launch an annual chimney fire safety campaign.

There have been 39 chimney fires dealt with by Shropshire firefighters in homes across the county and one over the border in Staffordshire since April this year – most of them avoidable, say Community Fire Safety officers.

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 Sam Hamer, of the brigade’s Community Fire Safety 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,” he 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.

People were looking at cheaper ways to heat their homes but should always use a qualified installer to fit a Rayburn. Without it their insurance would be at risk if there was a fire, he said.

“We just urge people to take precautions, call in a sweep, and ensure you have a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide monitor installed.

“It would also be a good neighbour to call on any elderly people living nearby to ensure they too are protected,” said Sam, whose team is delivering chimney fire safety leaflets to fuel distributors in Shropshire to hand out to customers.

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 by area: Telford (5); Shrewsbury (4); Baschurch (1); Oswestry (4); Ellesmere (1); Bridgnorth (1); Cleobury Mortimer (1); Minsterley (3); Clun (3); Church Stretton (1); Craven Arms (2); Bishops Castle (1); Ludlow (2); Newport (1); Prees (2); Whitchurch (2); Market Drayton (3); Hodnet (2);

Chimney safety advice includes:

Your chimney must be kept clean to prevent fires and structural damage to your property. Clean chimneys also help the environment by assisting the complete combustion of the fuel, reducing emissions in the atmosphere. 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.
Using a vacuum cleaner alone is not sufficient to clean the chimney properly. Ensure your chimney flue is inspected at regular intervals to prevent fire breaking out of the chimney. Fireguards can prevent serious injury or death. Spark guards can prevent a serious fire in your property.
Chimneys using:
• Smokeless fuels should be swept at least once a year
• Bituminous coal should be swept at least once a year
• Wood, every 3 months when in use
• Oil, once a year
• Gas, once a year
Make sure you are not at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning by having appliances installed and serviced by competent engineers.
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
• Do not burn paper or rubbish
• Do not overload the fire with fuel
Go into the loft occasionally when the fire is alight to check for smoke from cracks, defective brickwork or mortar joints
• Dial 999 and ask for the Fire and Rescue Service
• Alert other people in the house
• Leave the room, closing the door behind you and wait for the Fire and Rescue Service to arrive

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