20th January 2021

Are you sure your chimney is clean and ready to light?

Even though the sun is still shining autumn will soon be here, bringing the cooler weather. This time of year is the perfect time to check your chimney is clean, safe and has been swept by a registered chimney sweep.

Chimney fires in England accounted for over 4,200 incidents dealt with by fire and rescue services between April 2016 and March 2017. As part of this year’s Chimney Fire Safety Week (3-9 September), Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service are asking you to get your chimneys swept by an approved sweep to prevent chimney damage and in worse cases, household fires.

Chimneys need to be dirt free to allow the free passage of dangerous combustion gasses, so regular cleaning removes soot and creosote, and will help prevent dangerous chimney fires.

Chimney fires can cause serious structural damage to a home, with the risks being even greater if the property has a thatched roof. The damage is not only fire based but also the dirt and smell left from all the soot and smoke, which would affect your personal property, including all your Christmas presents.

Alan Gilson, Community Safety Prevention Manager explains:  “All chimneys and flues need to be regularly cleaned and checked to ensure they’re free from debris and in full working order. A blocked or defective chimney can cause both chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisonings.

“If the worst should happen, working smoke alarms can give you an early warning, make sure you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and test them monthly. Also do you have family, friends or a neighbour who may need your help to test their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms?”

Sweeping frequencies

Sweeping frequencies below are for guidance only. Frequency will depend on a number of factors including: type of fuel, appliance used, duration of use, moisture content of wood fuel, type of chimney.

Smokeless coals – at least once a year

Wood – up to four times a year

Bituminous coal – twice a year

Oil – once a year

Gas once a year

Wood burning stoves

The increased efficiency of such stoves, whilst very welcome, has its own implications with regard to fire risk.

Such efficiency depends on a high flue gas temperature of around 500°C which is concentrated in a narrow air column. When installed in a properly regulated, modern chimney this type of system is a highly effective way of getting maximum heat out of burning wood; but where ancient chimney stacks are concerned, the inappropriate introduction of such installations, with metal liners can create serious problems.

If in doubt, ask and don’t use any chimney related appliance until you are sure it is safe!

Top tips

  • Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers
  • Make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed or leaving the house
  • When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only
  • Never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper
  • Do not overload the grate
  • Consider having a carbon monoxide detector fitted as an additional safeguard against the build-up of poisonous fumes
  • Have a working smoke alarm

Smoke alarms

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service advise you to:

Regularly check your smoke alarms by pressing their button

Once a year – change your battery or consider buying a ten-year alarm which will not require frequent battery changes

Once a year – vacuum and wipe the smoke alarm casing to ensure dust isn’t blocking the sensor chamber (For mains wired alarms, switch off first).

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide (CO) is the most common form of household poison. You can’t see it, taste it or smell it. CO poisoning can be fatal or cause permanent damage to your health. Make sure you are not at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning by having appliances installed and serviced by competent engineers, never block air bricks, vents or flues and fit a carbon monoxide detector.

Make the call to request free Home Safety advice call free on: now 0800 05 02 999. For any other fire safety advice, contact the Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue helpline on: 01392 872288 or visit our website www.dsfire.gov.uk