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Chimney Fire Safety Week 2013

It's Chimney Fire Safety Week 2013! Running for a week commencing the 9th of September, Chimney Fire Safety Week is an opportunity for us all to start thinking about preparing our fireplaces for the hard work they're going to be doing over the coming months.

Taking proper care of your chimney has a vast number of benefits. The first is safety. A clean and well maintained chimney can help protect against damage to your fireplace, chimney fires, and the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. It also helps ensure the longevity of your appliance, and the chimney itself, as well as helping fuel to burn safely and efficiently.

Chimney fires

Chimney fires usually start from one of the following:

•    Infrequent sweeping and cleaning.
•    Burning unseasoned wet wood.
•    The wrong sized fire.
•    Overnight burning or smouldering of wood for long periods.

General Fire and Chimney Safety

Although we're naturally clued up on fire safety, we've jotted down a few guidelines, just to ensure you don't forget anything:

•    Don't store wood right next to your fire or stove. Keep it in a separate log store, or in a log basket kept at a distance.
•    Try to use wood that is dried to less than 20% moisture, as it results in less tar build up in the appliance.
•    Don't leave open fires unattended.
•    Use fire guards where appropriate.
•    Use audible smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
•    Ensure that your appliance complies with building regulations, and is fitted by an accredited HETAS installer.
•    Always use the correct and appropriate fuel. Never burn anything like cardboard, paper, or plastic.
•    Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
•    Have the chimney swept regularly by a registered chimney sweep.  They will do much more than just sweep the chimney to ensure your continued safe use of the fire.

Chimney Sweeps

You should always use a professional and registered chimney sweep. They will ensure that the chimney is cleaned correctly, as well as carrying out any appropriate safety checks. You should also be issued an approved certificate. Under no circumstances should you use an unregistered and improperly trained chimney sweep. Doing so could have fatal consequences. Visit the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps to find a sweep in your area.

How often should my chimney be swept?

•    Smokeless Coals – At least once a year.
•    Wood – Up to 4 times a year.
•    Bituminous Coal – Twice a year.
•    Oil – Once a year.
•    Gas – Once a year.

What if my chimney is damaged?

The chimney stack itself can be damaged by fire, external weathering, or internal corrosion from soot. Damage to the chimney stack and flue can negatively affect the performance of the chimney, and degrade its ability to remove harmful gases. Your chimney sweep will make a number of checks every time they clean the chimney, and will be able to advise the best repair route. If you suffer a chimney fire at any point, it is a good idea to have an integrity test and camera survey on the installation and flue before you use it again.

As we enter the colder months, we’ll be using our fires more and more. So spend some time this week thinking about Chimney Fire Safety, and have one less thing to worry about this winter.