Wednesday, June 3

Chimney Fires – Don’t Be A Statistic

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Over the last few years, the number of chimney fires attended by Fire and Rescue Services in the UK has reduced from over 18,000 in 1998 to below 8,000 in 2014. Good news for us all, however, we all still need to look after our chimneys, check them regularly and know what to do if the worst happens to us.

uk chimney fire statistics

FROM THE BEGINNING:

  • use a qualified fitter to install your open fire or stove.
  • Install and regularly test a smoke alarm.
  • Install and regularly test a Carbon Monoxide detector.
  • Burn only approved fuels.
  • Know the chimney fire signs.

SO, WHAT ARE THE CHIMNEY FIRE SIGNS? HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST COMMON:

  • Loud roaring noise: people have told us it sounds like a train rumble or a low flying aircraft.
  • Sparks and/or flames from the top of the chimney pot. Stove vibrations.
  • Glowing or flaming stovepipe, joints and connectors.
  • Intense heat from the chimney breast or flue pipe.
  • Smoke and intense heat in other rooms in the house or loft.

Some slow-burning chimney fires won’t have any of these symptoms, especially if they don’t have enough fuel and air. They may not be as dramatic as the list above, but they still reach very high temperatures, over 1000 °C, and can cause just as much damage.

IF THE WORST HAPPENS WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

  1. Dial 999 for Fire & Rescue Service, if you are in danger Get Out and Stay Out. Otherwise:
  2. Shut down your stove’s vents and dampers to reduce the fire oxygen supply.
  3. Move any flammable materials, furniture, etc. away from the fireplace and chimney breast throughout the property.
  4. Do NOT attempt to pour water on the fire if you have a stove. There’s a good chance the sudden temperature change will shatter the glass and could even crack the cast iron.
  5. Do NOT pour salt on the fire. Salt and fire create chlorine gas that is toxic and can also damage your chimney.
  6. Firefighters will probably need loft access, it’s a good idea to have easy access to it at all times.

After a Chimney fire, you should get the chimney checked by a HETAS qualified engineer or a reputable chimney sweep before it is used again. He will be able to advise you on repairs or replacements before you start burning again.

Finally, we don’t want it happening again or at all, take care of your stoves. The main reason for fires is the build up of creosote in the flue. Burning unseasoned wood, insufficient air flow in the chimney and cool chimney temperatures are all contributary causes to creosote formation.

AVOID EXCESSIVE CHIMNEY TARRING BY:

  • have your chimney swept regularly *.
  • read the manufacturers’ instructions on fuel and lighting techniques.
  • use a moisture meter and make sure you only burn dry wood.
  • never overload your firebox with wood or coal
  • avoid long slow burns

* To minimise the risk of Chimney fires, you should have it swept regularly. Here’s how often by fuel type.

chimney fires by fuel type

Please follow this guide and you’ll have many long and safe years with your wood burning stove.

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