Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) is asking residents to keep their chimneys clean to avoid becoming a fire statistic in 2015, after crews were called to at least one chimney fire a day during December (approximately).
The incidents involved traditional open fires and wood burning stoves, with embers becoming stuck in unswept chimneys or, in one case, an incorrectly fitted flue.
The most recent incidents occurred last night, (30 December) in Betteshanger, Deal where crews were called just before 8pm after embers from a fire grate ignited soot on a chimney wall. Earlier the same day, crews extinguished a blaze in Doubleton Lane, Penshurst, after a flue liner became detached from a log burner causing the escape of smoke, embers and burnt material to fall back into the fireplace.
On Boxing Day firefighters went to four chimney fires (three in the Maidstone area and one in Dartford), in the space of six hours.
KFRS Head of Community Safety, Lee Rose, said: "Now the weather has turned colder, it's important for people to stay safe and warm especially the very young, older people and those with mobility problems.
"If you use a fire to heat your home it's vital your chimney is swept regularly by a certified chimney sweep. This can be as much as three times in the winter but at least once a year - regardless of the fuel type you burn. Keeping chimneys and flues clean and well maintained will reduce the likelihood of your chimney catching fire.
"Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers and make sure the fire is out before you go to bed or leave your home."
The first indication of a chimney fire is usually the noise—a roaring sound that grows louder as the fire’s intensity increases. Clouds of black smoke and sparks may be seen exiting the top of the chimney; in severe fires, flames can extend several feet above the chimney. Some chimney fires will be obvious with flames and sparks shooting out of the chimney but in other cases the first sign you get that there is a problem could be a loud cracking, popping or low rumbling noise coming from your chimney along with a lot of thick smoke.
Chimney fires can be dangerous because, if they are not extinguished promptly, they can easily cause a house fire. In fact, many house fires start as chimney fires that spread into the home.
Lee added: "Your best course of action is to have working smoke alarms and if you discover a fire in your home, call 999 and ask for the fire service. We use specialist equipment including stirrup pumps and chimney rods to tackle chimney fires and thermal imaging cameras to check the fire hasn't spread to walls, lofts and other spaces.
"Don't let your New Year be ruined by a fire in your home and please spare a few minutes to check on elderly neighbours, relatives and friends to make sure they are warm and safe this winter. You could even extend the season of goodwill by giving them a FREE Home Safety Visit from KFRS – to see if they qualify please call 0800 923 7000 or email your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org"
See our top tips for staying safe this winter.
To find your local chimney sweep, contact the National Association of Chimney Sweeps on freephone 0800 833464 or www.nacs.org.uk