Chim, chim, cher-ee…make sure your chimney is cleaned regularly

 

Fans of Mary Poppins will be familiar with Dick Van Dyke’s cheeky chimney sweep Bert, but they’re maybe not aware of the risks a dirty chimney could pose to you and your family.

Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) is warning residents of the dangers of an un-swept chimney following 140 call outs last year, seven more than in the previous year.

GFRS believes the increase is due to the rise in popularity of open fires and wood-burners, particularly in rural areas. It is urging local people to regularly have their chimney swept to avoid the serious damage that can be caused to homes and families.

Poorly maintained chimneys or flues can fill with debris like cobwebs, leaves and bird’s nests along with soot or oil deposits.

The service recommends that you:

  • Sweep your chimney at least once a year
  • Don’t use your fire as a rubbish bin
  • Use a fireguard
  • Keep flammable materials and furniture at least 2m from the fire
  • Use well seasoned wood
  • Make sure embers are under control and extinguished before you go to bed

It is also important to be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms that can be caused by blocked chimneys. Carbon monoxide gas is highly poisonous and can incapacitate or even kill people in a closed room within a short time.

As well as ensuring your chimney is kept clear, it is important to make sure that wood, coal or biomass fires are installed by approved engineers. They will make sure that both the fire itself and where it is installed are safe.

A faulty installation can result in fires, even invalidating home insurance in some cases. The service encourages residents to check with HETAS, a national, independent body approved by the government. They have registers of approved installers and chimney sweeps on their website at www.hetas.co.uk, so residents can be sure that their engineer is accredited.

Stewart Edgar, chief fire officer at GFRS, said: “Chimney fires are extremely dangerous. They can reach temperatures above 1,000c inside the flue or chimney and will spread rapidly.

“Wood should always be dried away from a heat source and we urge anyone with a fire to put the safety of your loved ones first by using an accredited chimney sweep regularly.”

Cllr Nigel Moor, cabinet member for fire, planning and infrastructure, said: “A chimney fire can cause serious damage to your home. Repairing your chimney could also cost thousands of pounds, particularly if it causes structural damage or spreads to other parts of the property.

“It’s not too expensive to have your chimney or flue swept, usually between £30 -£60 but it could cost you your life to ignore it.”

HETAS is the national, independent body who approve installers and chimney sweeps, registers of both can be found on their websitewww.hetas.co.uk

For more information about keeping your chimney safe and clean visit http://www.glosfire.gov.uk/ysafety_h_chimney.html