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Get Sweeping for Chimney Fire Safety Week and help to keep your family safe

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As autumn approaches, Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is asking homeowners as part of Chimney Fire Safety Week 2020 (30 August – 5 September) to get their chimneys swept by an approved sweep.

Efficient sweeping prevents chimney damage, and, in worse cases, household fires.

Part of the Government’s Fire Kills campaign and backed by HETAS, the Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme, Chimney Fire Safety Week aims to reduce chimney fires by raising awareness of safe chimney use, including the importance of ensuring that chimneys are swept regularly, kept clean and appropriate quality fuel is used.

Between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2021 in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, there were 1,524 chimney fires.

While over a 10-year period there has been a decrease of 42% in such fires - In 2011/12 there were 187 compared with 109 in 2020/21 - there is no room for complacency.

Bruce Allen, CEO of HETAS, said: “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.”

Emma Roberts, Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service’s Prevention manager, said: “Sweeping your chimney up to 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.

“A typical sweep only takes about 90 minutes and doesn’t make a mess. Professional chimney sweeps use modern methods and tools such as power-sweeping, CCTV and vacuums to ensure minimal disturbance for the homeowner. Customers don’t need to move all of their furniture out of the room.”

HWFRS recommend these top tips to keep you and your family safe from chimney fires:

  • Have your chimney swept regularly by a Certified Sweep, depending on what fuel you burn - before the colder months set in and you begin to use your fire again
  • Keep chimneys, flues and appliances clean and well maintained
  • Chimneys that have been lined still require regular sweeping
  • Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks
  • Avoid ‘slumbering’ an appliance - unless it has been tested as safe to do so. (Slumber mode is setting an appliance is at a low or minimum output normally for overnight burning, to be revived next day without having to relight it.)
  • Be careful when using open fires to keep warm. Make sure you always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers
  • Ensure the fire is extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house
  • A fire plan can also ensure your family escape in a fire
  • Have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and test them weekly
  • Don’t keep this advice to yourself – pass it on. Is there anyone you can help to organise a sweep or test their alarms?

How often should chimneys be swept?

  • Smokeless Fuels – at least once a year
  • Bituminous Coal – at least twice a year
  • Wood – quarterly when in use
  • Oil – once a year
  • Gas – once a year (refer to Gas Safe Register)

Emma Roberts added: “People wouldn’t think twice about getting their cars MOT’d, but chimneys often get overlooked. Why not get the job done now before winter arrives and you really need that chimney?

“Finally, if you want to see if you qualify for a free Safe and Well Check or would like any fire safety advice, please call 0800 032 1155.”

For more information on maintaining your chimney and how can help with fire prevention, please visit: www.chimneyfiresafetyweek.co.uk.