Stoves, Open Fires and Chimneys
Chimney fires can be particularly destructive and can escalate quickly in to a house fire. The best way to avoid this is by regular maintenance. In 2021 DFB responded to 303 chimney fires, many could have been avoided.
- We advise that a chimney is cleaned at least once a year, and more often depending on the type of fuel you use. You should only use approved coal/fuels and seasoned (dried) wood. Burning scraps of wood, wood that has been varnished or treated, rubbish or waste will cause damage to your chimney over time.
- Generally fireplaces and stoves are not used in the warmer summer months, and this gives opportunity for birds to nest on top of, or in your chimney flue. So with this in mind the best time to clean is just before the burning season.
- Talk to your chimney sweep about a visual inspection of the flue. Over time, the mortar joints can deteriorate and fall away, this can allow for the smoke and heat to leave the flue and in to your brick work, house voids, or attic space causing a fire. We have always recommend that you have a working smoke alarm on all levels of your home, this incudes your attic/roof space.
Using a fire or stove:
- Use a spark guard on an open fire especially when you leave the room or go to bed. As we said before, use approved fuels only. Burning plastic or paper could result in your chimney becoming blocked.
- Don’t store flammable materials close to the fire or stove. This includes wood.
- Don’t use an open fire to air dry clothes, they could catch fire.
- Never place anything on top of a stove.
The next day:
- Remember that the ashes of a fire may still be hot in the morning, so ensure they are cool before you dispose of them. We recommend you use an old-style tin metal biscuit box to store the ashes for 24 hours before placing the ashes in the main bin. Place this tin outside as hot ashes still produce carbon monoxide so it needs to be in a vented space.
If a fire happens:
- If you suspect your chimney is on fire there will be some clues. The fire will draw more air from the fire place/stove, it may sound like a jet engine. Smoke may start coming out of the fireplace filling the room. There might be debris falling in to the fireplace. Flames and sparks will sometimes shoot out of the top of your chimney, and in this case it may be your neighbours who alert you about it.
- If you think there is a problem ring 999/112 as early as you can, the quicker firefighters deal with the fire the less damage it will cause. Alert everyone in the house. It may not be necessary to evacuate, but be prepared to if smoke starts to fill the house. If it is safe to do so, SPRINKLE some water on the fire to dampen the flames. DO NOT THROW WATER on the flames, this will turn to steam and cause burns. Place a spark guard in front of the fire, or in the case of a stove, close the door and all the air vents. This will deprive the fire of oxygen.