Although thatch fires are not common, when they happen they can be very serious. Over 90 per cent of thatch roof fires start as a result of a faulty flue or chimney. The thatch is designed to repel water which makes extinguishing such fires difficult. The following advice is to help people with thatched properties prevent fires and keep themselves and their homes and businesses safe.
Here are some safety tips to help prevent or reduce the spread of fire in thatched properties:
Chimneys and flues
- keep chimneys in good condition: re-point or line as necessary
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- any re-thatch or major ridge job should have all material taken from around the chimney so that it can be checked and repaired if needed
- the chimney, if used by any appliance producing flue gases, should be linked according to the manufacturer's specification and, in the case of solid fuels, should be swept regularly
- the top of the stack should be no closer than 1.8 metres from the ridge vertically and, in the case of a stack in the wall, 4 metres vertically from any thatch surface
- do not build, rebuild or design chimneys which pass close to or through thatch without appropriate expert advice
- do not pass metal and other heat conducting flues through the thatch
- spark arrestors should be fitted and maintained/cleaned on a regular basis
- most thatch fires start in the roof space and, due to the thickness of the roof, may not be apparent for many hours
- fit low voltage, mains powered, linked smoke alarms
- all electrical wiring in the loft space should be routed in fire retardant ducting
- do not cut recessed lighting into the ceilings below the thatch
- light fittings within the roof space should be in a bulkhead fitting
- external floodlights should not be located just under thatch overhangs
- have your electrical wiring checked regularly and any repairs that are undertaken are done so by a qualified electrician.
Fireworks, bonfires and garden fires
- be aware that sparks from fireworks and bonfires can cause fly up to the thatch and cause fires
- take extra care if you have barbecues, bonfires or firework parties make sure they are well away from the house and be sensible with garden fires
- ensure any person working in or on the house is aware of the dangers which the careless use of naked flame can bring
- blow lamps are not safe to use in the roof space
- do not allow flame stripping of paint around eaves
If there is a fire
- Call 999 and tell the operator that you are calling about a thatched property so we can send the right number of engines
- give us precise locations and a landmark if possible
- if not easily visible from the road send someone to guide us in
- tell us about anyone still inside the property
- tell us what property is most valuable so we can try to salvage it
- tell us where you think the fire started
- tell us as accurately as you can how long since the fire started or when you first noticed it
- tell us about any local water supplies, for example, a neighbour's swimming pool, or a nearby stream
Make a safety plan and preparations
- Draw a floor plan of your property, ground and first floor.
- Indicate the locations of valuable and sentimental items. This can then be given to the fire crews who will then use this information to formulate a salvage plan while undertaking firefighting operations.
- Location of intake services into your property; gas, water and electricity.
- Location of access to the loft and additional hazards within the property which might be important for the firefighters to know such as oil and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) tanks.