Get sweeping for Chimney Fire Safety Week!

As part of the National Fire Kills campaign and prior to the colder Autumn and Winter weather, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service is warning residents and landlords of the dangers of an un-swept chimney following 91 calls to a chimney fire last year and over 500 chimney fires in the last five years.

GFRS is urging local people to regularly have their chimney swept to avoid the serious damage that can be caused to homes and families.

Poorly maintained chimneys or flues can fill with debris such as cobwebs, leaves and bird’s nests along with soot or oil deposits.

Here are GFRS’s top tips:

  • Sweep your chimney twice a year.
  • Don’t use your fire as a rubbish bin.
  • Use a fireguard.
  • Keep flammable materials and furniture at least 2m from the fire.
  • Use well seasoned wood.
  • Make sure embers are under control and extinguished before you go to bed.
  • Have at least one smoke alarm on every floor of your home and test them monthly.

How often?
Chimneys should be swept according to the type of fuel being used:  

  • Smokeless fuels – at least once a year
  • Bituminous Coal – at least twice a year
  • Wood – quarterly when in use
  • Oil – at least once a year
  • Gas – at least once a year (refer to gas safe register)

GFRS advises if you light your fire regularly during the winter months, then you should consider having your chimney swept more often.   

It is also important to be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms that can be caused by blocked chimneys. Carbon monoxide gas is highly poisonous and can incapacitate or even kill people in a closed room within a short time.

As well as ensuring your chimney is kept clear, it is important to make sure that wood, coal or biomass fires are installed by approved engineers. They will make sure that both the fire itself and where it is installed are safe.

A faulty installation can result in fires, even invalidating home insurance in some cases.

The service encourages residents to check with HETAS, a national, independent body approved by the government.

They have registers of approved installers and chimney sweeps on their website at www.hetas.co.uk, so residents can be sure that their engineer is accredited.

Mark Preece, chief fire officer at Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Chimney fires are extremely dangerous. They can reach temperatures above 1,000c inside the flue or chimney and will spread rapidly. Wood should always be dried away from a heat source and we urge anyone with a fire to put the safety of your loved ones first by using an accredited chimney sweep regularly.”

Cllr Dave Norman, cabinet member with responsibility for fire, said: “A chimney fire can cause serious damage to your home. Repairing your chimney could also cost thousands of pounds, particularly if it causes structural damage or spreads to other parts of the property. It’s not too expensive to have your chimney or flue swept, usually between £30 – £60 but it could cost you your life to ignore it.”

For more information on chimney maintenance and fire prevention visit www.chimneyfiresafetyweek.co.uk and www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/glosfire.

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