Chimney Fires Warning

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.

Over the past two years there have been 349 chimney fires in Shropshire.

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.

Householders 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

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