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Get Sweeping for Chimney Fire Safety Week before you light those chimneys and woodburners

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As autumn approaches, Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is asking homeowners as part of Chimney Fire Safety Week 2020 (31 August – 6 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.

Figures coming down but sweeping still is vital

During the last ten years HWFRS dealt with 1,671 chimney fires in its area, an average of 167 per year and fewer than 14 per month.

While the positive news is that this is a downward trend – the number of chimney fires in 2019-20 was 98 compared with 112 in 2018-19 - there is still plenty of work to do to reduce the numbers still further.

Station Commander Steve Andrews, of the Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service Community Risk 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 sweeps the opportunity to check for any problems with the chimney or liner.”

He added: “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
  • Don’t keep this advice to yourself – pass it on. Is there anyone you can help to organise a sweep or test their alarms?
  • 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.)
  • Should a fire start, a working smoke alarm can give you the early warning
  • 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

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)

Station Commander Andrews continued: “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.