Spate of chimney fires in Bucks prompts fire service reminder about chimney safety

12 chimney fires in January this year alone has prompted the Bucks Fire and Rescue Service to issue a reminder to the people of Buckinghamshire about to keep their chimneys safe.

With the weather set for colder evenings again this week, firefighters are urging people who have open fires or stoves to ensure their chimneys are kept in good condition and are regularly swept.

There have been 12 reported chimney fires in January 2020 in Bucks

There have been 12 reported chimney fires in January 2020 in Bucks

During the 2018/19 financial year, 69 chimney fires were attended in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

So far this year there have been 37 since 1 April 2019, and 12 of these took place in January 2020, with crews attending fires in Lacey Green, Little Brickhill, Marlow, Bletchley, Piddington, Stewkley, Butlers Cross, Whiteleaf, Bishopstone, Jordans, Long Crendon and Winchmore Hill.

Joanne Cook, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “Now that we are in the colder part of the year, those with open fires are more likely to use them.

“A blocked or defective chimney can cause carbon monoxide poisoning as well as a fire, so regular inspection and cleaning of chimney flues can help to identify and eliminate issues before they become a problem.

“Make sure your chimney is swept regularly by a certified chimney sweep. The recommended frequencies depend upon the fuel you burn, and we have included a guide below, but if you have any concerns or are unsure your Chimney Sweep will be able to advise you.

“It is also really important to have working smoke alarms in your home and that you test them once a month. If you are using an open fire or stove it is also advisable to invest in a carbon monoxide detector, as early warning can make the difference.”

Recommended frequencies are:

- Smokeless coal - at least once a year

- Wood - up to four times a year

- Bituminous coal - twice a year

- Oil or gas - once a year

The following websites can help you find a certified chimney sweep:

National Association of Chimney Sweeps - nacs.org.uk
Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps - www.guildofmasterchimneysweeps.co.uk

Institute of Chimney Sweeps - www.instituteofchimneysweeps.com
Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme - www.hetas.co.uk
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.

- Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained.

- If you have recently opened up or about to start to use a fireplace, make sure it is inspected by a qualified person.

- When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only.

- Never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper.

- Inspect your chimney breast, particularly in the roof space.

- Make sure that it is sound and that the sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks.

- Ensure wood burners are installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

- Make sure the appliance receives enough air to allow the fuel to burn properly.

- Consider fitting a carbon monoxide detector.