Chimney Fire Safety

By taking chimney safety measures, practising preventive measures, and following these helpful chimney safety tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of chimney-related fires ensuring optimal fire safety. In England on average, 3,800 Chimney Fires occur every year (UK Government).

Main Causes of Chimney Fires

Chimney fires often occur due to the accumulation of excess tar, primarily caused by dirty chimneys. However, there are other contributing factors that can increase the risk of fires. Understanding and addressing these factors is crucial for chimney fire safety. Understand what causes chimney fires below:

  1. Burning Unseasoned Wet Wood: Using wet wood on an open fire is highly dangerous. Wet wood produces more smoke and releases harmful particles into the environment. Additionally, it promotes the buildup of creosote within the chimney, creating a fire hazard. To season freshly cut firewood, store wood outdoors in a covered area off the ground for at least six months before use.
  2. Infrequent Chimney Sweeping and Cleaning: Neglecting this can lead to the accumulation of soot, ash, and tar. These substances can emit hazardous chemicals and pose a fire risk. Ensure that your chimney is professionally swept and cleaned on a regular basis to reduce buildup.
  3. Incorrect Appliance Sizing: It’s essential to choose the right-sized appliance for your chimney. Large appliances may not reach the necessary high temperatures to effectively circulate throughout the flue, leaving unburned fuel to pass up the chimney as smoke. This unburned fuel can condense as highly flammable creosote. Consult a professional to ensure your fuel-burning appliance is properly sized for your chimney.
  4. Overnight and Unattended Burning: Avoid leaving fuel-burning appliances at a low temperature for extended periods. When a fire smoulders at a low temperature, smoke and gases cannot escape quickly enough, resulting in build-up. Always maintain proper airflow and attend to the fire as needed.

Chimney Fire Safety Tips 

By being aware of these factors and taking necessary precautions, you can significantly reduce the risk of chimney fires and ensure the safety of your home and family.

  1. Regular Chimney Sweeping: Schedule regular chimney sweeping to minimise the risk of a chimney fire. The frequency of sweeping depends on the type of fuel being burned.

Chimney sweep recommendations based on Fire burning appliances:

  • Oil: once a year
  • Gas: once a year
  • Bituminous coal: twice a year
  • Wood-burning: up to four times a year
  • and smokeless fuels (like coal) at least once a year.
  1. Avoid Burning Wet Wood: Ensure that the wood you burn has a moisture content of no more than 17 percent. Burning wet wood leads to incomplete combustion, which escalates the potential for creosote accumulation and chimney fires.
  2. Use a Fireguard for Open Fireplaces: When using open fireplaces, use a fireguard to prevent smouldering embers and flying sparks from causing a fire hazard. The fireguard will help contain any potential sparks and embers within the fireplace area.
  3. Keep Burning Materials out of Reach of Children: It is important to store flammable materials and dangerous substances out of the reach of children. Children should be supervised when in the vicinity of fire hazards to prevent accidents.
  4. Keep wood and fuel away from the fire: Flying sparks can accidentally ignite nearby items such as flammable materials or supplies intended for burning. Ensure that all igneous materials are stored a safe distance away from the fireplace.
  5. Educate Family Members: Teach your family about fire safety, including the importance of proper fireplace use, and establish clear guidelines for handling fires and emergency procedures.
  6. Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors: It is crucial to have up-to-date smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home for optimal safety. BS 5839-6 2019 + A1 2020 recommends interlinking these alarms to provide early warning throughout your home. Place detectors near sleeping areas and on each level of your home. Regularly test and maintain them to ensure proper functionality. View Aico’s entire product range.

For an added layer of protection, you may wish to consider products like the Aico Ei533 BS 6165:2002, a small home fire extinguisher designed for domestic properties which is suitable for liquid, electrical, and gaseous fires. Enabling you to respond promptly in case of a small fire emergency. It is important to familiarise yourself and your family members with the proper use and operation of the safety products.

What to do in the event of a chimney fire

In the unfortunate event of a chimney-related house fire, it is crucial to take immediate action to protect yourself and your home. Here are the necessary steps to follow:

  1. Alert everyone and evacuate immediately.
  2. Prioritise and do not compromise your safety. Make sure your assembly point is 50 feet away from the fire.
  3. Call the emergency services and provide accurate information about the chimney fire.
  4. Monitor the fire from a safe distance and provide information to firefighters.

To prevent a chimney fire from escalating, take the following measures only if it is safe to do so:

  1. Close the damper and air supply: This will restrict the oxygen supply, slowing down the fire’s growth. Also, close any doors to the fireplace to reduce oxygen intake.
  2. Avoid spraying the fire with water: Doing so can cause steam buildup.

Remember, the primary concern is your safety. If the fire cannot be controlled easily and safely, evacuate the premises immediately and contact emergency services.

By practising chimney fire safety measures, such as regular inspections and cleanings, and installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, you can significantly reduce the risk of chimney-related fires. By being proactive and prepared, you can minimise the risks associated with chimney fires and ensure the well-being of your home and loved ones.

For further advice, visit our home fire safety article to find out more about keeping your home safe from potential fires as well as essential equipment.

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