Sweep your chimney for a safer winter

An open fire can bring welcome warmth - but ensure your chimney is clean.
An open fire can bring welcome warmth - but ensure your chimney is clean.
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Get sweeping this September by preparing your chimney for winter.

As part of National Chimney Fire Safety Week (September 9 to 16) Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is encouraging residents with open fires and chimneys to prepare themselves for winter by calling in a chimney sweep.

Last winter (2012/13) the service attended an increased number of chimney fires owing to the long and bitter cold temperatures. Between October 2012 and March 2013 we attended 58 chimney fires in Cambridgeshire, compared with 50 during the same period the previous year.

Firefighters are now calling for residents to ensure their chimneys are properly maintained to reduce the risk of fire in the coming cold months.

Rick Hylton, Area Commander at Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “If you have an open fire in your home, it is vital your chimney is swept at least once a year to prevent a build up of debris which could start a fire.

“In addition to this, the brickwork on the chimney should also be inspected, particularly in the roof space to ensure there are no cracked or broken bricks which embers could escape through.

“Open fires can be cosy and a cheaper way to stay warm, but a chimney fire is chilling and expensive. Not only could it cause extensive damage to your home, but it could also put the lives of you and your family at serious risk.”

Top tips to enjoy an open fire safely:

* Have the chimney swept at least once a year, or more frequently if you burn wood.

* Do not bank fires too high and remember to let them burn down well before you retire to bed.

* Check the hearth, floor and furnishings near the fire for hot sparks or embers before you go to bed.

* Use a fire or spark guard to prevent accidental fires and make sure that it has the kite mark or conforms to relevant to British/European safety standard.

* Do not place objects on or over the mantle-piece which may cause you to stand too close to the fire to reach or use them.

* Inspect your chimney breast regularly - particularly in the roof space - to ensure that it is sound and that sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks.

* Avoid burning resinous woods as soot builds up quickly

* Buy only suitable fuels

* Do not overload the grate or appliance

Above all, ensure that you have a working smoke alarm fitted on each floor of your home. This will give you an early warning to a fire, allowing extra time for occupants in the home to escape.