Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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Chimney Fires

As cold temperatures begin to bite Essex County Fire and Rescue Service are warning people who have an open fire to make sure that they have taken the correct precautions before lighting the fire.

Crews across the county attended three chimney fires in a four hour period on the evening of Thursday October 10 as people lit their fires for the first time in months.

A fire in a chimney can devastate homes so anyone hoping to enjoy the warm glow of a real fire needs to ensure their fireplace and chimneys are properly maintained.

Chimneys should be swept at least once a year, and even more frequently for those who have burning fires where more soot builds up in the chimney.

It is not just chimneys which bring extra risks with an open fire but also the dangers posed by the fires themselves. But if people take a few simple precautions they can make sure that they and their homes are safe.

So before you light up, think about the following:

- Chimneys using smokeless fuel or bituminous coal/oil should be swept at least once a year
- Chimneys using wood should be swept quarterly when in use
- Ensure a fireguard is in front of the fire at all times, spark-guards can prevent a serious property fire
- Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house
- Do not light fires using flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin.
- Do not burn paper or rubbish on fires in the grate
- Do go into the loft occasionally to check the chimney when the fire is alight.
- Check for smoke from cracks, defective brickwork or mortar joints

Divisional Neil Fenwick said: “We see an increase the number of chimney fires at the start of winter and in some cases they can cause real devastation, especially in thatched cottages.
 
“Anyone who uses a real fire needs to take precautions because these fires are preventable. Regular inspection and cleaning of chimney flues will help to eliminate the build-up of soot from coal, wood, oil and gas-fired systems. It also clears obstructions such as bird’s nests, leaves and debris.”

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