Between April 2015 and March 2016 chimney fires in England accounted for over 4,200 incidents dealt with by fire and rescue services. This year’s Chimney Fire Safety Week (4 – 10 September), part of the Government’s Fire Kills campaign, calls for homeowners to clean up their act and get their chimneys swept by an approved sweep to prevent chimney damage, and, in worse cases, household fires.
Chimney Fire Safety Week was introduced in 2009 with the aims of raising awareness of safe chimney use and the importance of ensuring that chimneys are swept regularly, are clean and appropriate quality fuel is used.
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service (DWFRS) are working in collaboration with HETAS and the National Association of Chimney Engineers (NACE), advising homeowners to take this opportunity to make sure their chimneys are ready for the colder months to come.
DWFRS Safe and Well Manager, Vikki Thomas said: “A clean chimney can help prevent fires and structural damage to your property. Regular cleaning of your chimney or flue will eliminate the build-up of soot and clear obstructions such as bird or animal nests, leaves and debris.”
“It is not enough to use a vacuum cleaner and you should make sure that your chimney or flue is inspected regularly by a qualified chimney sweep.”
Bruce Allen, CEO of HETAS, comments: “Sweeping your chimney twice a year and using a quality assured fuel is the key to prevention. Not only does this remove soot and tar deposits, but also gives sweeps the opportunity to check for any problems with the chimney or liner.”
To keep you and your family safe from fire you should make sure you have your chimney swept regularly, depending on what fuel you burn, before the colder months set in and you begin to use your fire again. If the worst should happen, working smoke alarms can give you the early warning, and a fire-plan can help you ensure your family’s escape in a fire – make sure you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and test them monthly. And don’t keep this advice to yourself – pass it on. Is there anyone you know who may need your help in organising a sweep or testing their alarms?
Chimney sweep Emily Skeet, explains that sweeping is a quick and hassle-free process for homeowners: “There are a number of myths that needs to be dispelled about chimney sweeping. I think the first images to come into people’s minds are of small, soot-covered children, from ‘Mary Poppins’. Today, it’s a very different reality.”
Emily, who set up her own sweeping business three years ago, carries out up to six sweeps a day. She adds: “A normal sweep will take me about an hour and a half as I like to have a good chat with the client about their appliance. Contrary to what many people may think, I don’t make a mess. I use modern methods and tools such as a power-sweeping, CCTV and vacuums to ensure minimal disturbance for the homeowner. I’ve had a few cases where customers move all of their furniture out of the room, which really isn’t necessary!”
“People wouldn’t think twice about getting their cars MOT’d, but home appliances often get neglected so I keep in regular contact with clients to remind them which they really appreciate. It might not be on the top of everyone’s to-do lists, but you really can’t afford to risk leaving these things unattended.”