Chimneys and open fires
As the weather starts to cool down, you might be thinking of lighting your open fire, wood burning stove or other 'real flame' appliance and using your chimney again. An open fire or stove can be a focal point in your home but if they're not properly maintained and regularly cleaned they can dramatically increase your risk of having a fire.
Dirty chimneys cause fires – keep it swept
- Have your chimney and flue inspected and swept at least once a year for coal and twice if you are burning logs.
- A clean chimney can help prevent fires and structural damage to your property.
- Regular cleaning of your chimney or flues will eliminate the build up of soot and clear obstructions such as loose bricks, bird or animal nests, leaves and debris.
- Avoid overloading the grate or build fires too high.
- Dispose of ash safely and appropriately.
- Be aware of the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Things you can do:
- Check for moss or grass growing out of your chimney – it’s a sign it needs repair and if you had a chimney fire, could lead to smoke spread in your property.
- Does your chimney lean to one side? Or is the top of it missing? Some damage may not be noticeable because it is located inside the chimney. However that damage could allow a chimney fire to spread into the roof or other parts of your home
- If there are missing or cracked mortar joints or bricks, this is a sign your chimney needs repair. Look out for crumbling mortar falling onto your fireplace or stove.
- Only burn suitable fuels and don’t overload the grate.
- Always use a fire guard and if you have pets or young children consider using a safety guard.
- Make sure that the fire is out before going to bed at night or leaving the house.
- Do not dry or air clothes on a fireguard or close to the fire.
- Regularly check for smoke from defective brickwork in the loft when the fire is alight and avoid storing items too close to the chimney stack.
- Make sure no sparks or fumes can escape through cracks or broken bricks.
- Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks.
- Avoid too much clutter being stored in your loft as this will make it much easier for a chimney fire to spread.
- Have working smoke alarms fitted on every floor of your home and test them regularly.
How will you know if you have a chimney fire?
- A roaring sound that grows louder as the fire’s intensity increases.
- Loud cracking, popping or a low rumbling noise coming from your chimney.
- Embers falling back into the hearth.
- Black smoke, sparks and flames seen coming from the top of the chimney.
- In severe chimney fires flames can extend several feet above a chimney.
- The walls of the chimney breast or adjacent walls becoming hot to touch.
What you should do if you think your chimney is on fire:
If you think your chimney may be on fire call the fire service on 999.
- Leave the room, close the door and make sure everyone in in the property knows there is a fire.
- If it’s a log burner or stove close the vents and flue dampers if possible, to restrict the oxygen feeding the fire.
- Get outside through the quickest and easiest escape route.
- Stay out until the fire and rescue service arrive.
- If you can’t get out of the building, stay low to the ground and near a window. Calling out for help will firefighters know where you are.