Recent increase in wood burner fires in our area – so get your chimney swept if overdue and don’t add to the list!

chimney fires

Following a recent spate of woodburning stove fires in our area, Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is reminding homeowners to get their chimneys swept by an approved sweep, if overdue.

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

Fire crews have been called out to over ten fires over the past ten days in our two counties involving wood burning stoves or wood alongside– an average of about one a day. These include incidents in Ross-on-Wye, Hereford, Worcester, Evesham, Lucton and Malvern.

Over the most recent ten year period, between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2021 in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, there were 1,524 chimney fires.

To get your chimney swept, you can find a local sweep easily via HETAS, the Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme, at Chimney Sweep Search | Find a Chimney Sweep Near Me (

It is also vital that you burn the correct fuel in open fires and wood burning stoves. Burning other materials can cause toxic fumes in your home and can increase the risk of chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Equally, you must not reopen and use an old fireplace without a professional doing the work. The chimney is likely to be unsafe and can lead to a fire and/or carbon monoxide leaking into your home or even your neighbour’s home.

Invaluable advice is at Open fires and wood burning stove Department for Environment & Rural Affairs – A practical guide .

And don’t forget to test your smoke alarms regularly and replace when necessary.

Station Commander Sara Hall, from the Service’s Prevention Department, 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 chimney 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.

“So if your chimney is overdue for a sweep, now is the time to get it done – before the cold weather really bites and heating the house becomes more urgent.”

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.
  • 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. Ensure 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
  • Have a fire plan – to ensure your family can 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
  • Wood – quarterly when in use
  • Oil – once a year
  • Gas – once a year (refer to Gas Safe Register)

Sara added:

“People wouldn’t think twice about getting their cars MOT’d, but chimneys often get overlooked. Why not get the job done today if it’s overdue?

“And don’t forget, HWFRS Prevention Technicians and Fire crews are delighted to visit local residents and carry out a FREE Home Fire Safety visit if they qualify, to help keep them safe in their homes.

“Just contact us on 0800 032 1155 to see if you qualify for a free Home Fire Safety visit or would like fire safety advice?

For more information on maintaining your chimney and how you can help with fire prevention, please see our latest advice at get-sweeping-for-chimney-fire-safety-week-and-help-to-keep-your-family-safe.