Fourteen chimney fires have taken place over the last week
5th December 2013
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With more cold weather predicted over the next few days, Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service remind you to make sure your chimneys are safe and secure as possible, especially when lighting up fires that haven't been used for a while.

This advice comes after fourteen chimney fires have taken place in Devon and Somerset over the last week.

Fire Investigation Officer, Mike Burroughs explains: “With the nights being quite cold people have naturally been warming up their homes by lighting the traditional home fire, but without proper maintenance a chimney can become dangerous.

“To keep yourself and your family safe from fire you should take care to have your chimney swept regularly, depending upon what fuel you burn. If the worst should happen, a smoke alarm can give you the extra time you need to escape in a house fire – make sure you test yours regularly.”

Be extra careful if your home is a thatch property as 80% of thatched properties in the UK are within Devon & Somerset. Fire in a thatched roof is difficult to detect and once started is almost impossible to control. Once a fire has taken hold within a roof it will spread rapidly, due to the very nature of how thatch burns and detection is often too late and invariably devastating!

Many of the thatch fires are chimney-related. Modern enclosed solid fuel appliances are designed to burn efficiently and cleanly, often flues pass through old chimneys, where there is only a four-inch thickness of brick, which makes the thatch especially vulnerable to the risk of heat build-up and eventually combustion at a point between the brick and the thatch.

Chimneys need to be dirt free to allow the free passage of dangerous combustion gasses, so regular cleaning will remove soot and creosote, and help prevent dangerous chimney fires. Make sure your chimney is swept regularly by a registered chimney sweep.

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.

Growing in popularity are wood burning stoves and they also need to be checked regularly to ensure they are safe and clean, ensure wood burners are installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service have provided some top tips for safer chimneys:
• 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
• bird nests, cobwebs and other blockages within chimney to be removed
• 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
We advise you to:
• regularly check your alarms by pressing the 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)

Please visit Chimney Fires for more information.

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