The chimney may be a treasured asset in your home, but they do come with risks. Purchasing a home with a chimney is large responsibility (although totally worth it) as they require you to have critical safety measures in place.
A chimney fire can cause devastating damage and life-threatening injuries, so it’s important that you ensure all hazards are dealt with accordingly, and that you do everything you can as a homeowner, to avoid this happening.
In today’s blog, we’re going to be talking about some of the most common causes of chimney fires, how you can effectively reduce any risks of fire, and what to do should you discover a fire in your chimney.
Facts and Figures
- A staggering 50% of chimney fires take place in England between the months of January, February, and March.
- The latest statistics show that there are approximately 7,000 chimney fires a year in England, but most of these are preventable.
- Temperatures can reach 1,100 degrees celsius during a chimney fire.
As chimney sweeps, we see and remove fire hazards from people’s chimneys every day. We know what to look for, so can quickly advise on what to do and how to put additional measures in place. There are, however, many things that you can do at home to keep risks at bay.
Some of the most common causes of chimney fires are:
- Infrequent sweeping and cleaning
- Burning unseasoned wet wood
- Overnight burning or smouldering wood for long periods in wood stoves
- Improper appliance sizing
Signs of a chimney fire
- A loud roaring noise inside the chimney
- Sparks and flames seen shooting from the top of the chimney pot
- A glowing or vibrating flue pipe
- Smoke or smells noticeable in adjoining rooms or the loft space
Tips to reduce the risk of a chimney fire
- Chimneys should be cleaned and checked at least once per year. We recommend you book this in during the summer months to ensure the chimney is free from debris and in full working order before the heating season. A blocked or defective chimney can cause both chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisonings so it’s very important to employ a professional qualified Chimney Sweep.
- If the air controls are shut down too much, the burning temperature drops, and ‘unburnt’ fuel deposits within the flue – Never try to “slumber” your stove for long periods or overnight with the air controls closed off too much.
- Don’t burn waste, paper, crisp packets, or wrappers. These have little mass and when burnt can float up the chimney and ignite the soot within the flue.
- All wood burned must have a moisture content of no more than 20%.
What to do if you have a Chimney Fire?
As the temperature of the chimney can reach a whopping 1,110 degrees, the heat can radiate through walls and transfer into timber joists. This can weaken them or cause them to catch fire. The sparks could ignite flammable materials near the fireplace. As the chimney heats, the pressure builds up, this causes plasterwork to crack and can cause structural damage to the chimney. In some cases, the chimney stack can crack, and brickwork can fall.
It’s important to act FAST.
- Call the fire services on 999
- Shut all the air vents and flue dampers if you have a stove. This will reduce the oxygen supply of a stove and help stop the spread of the fire
- Block the fire with something non-combustible if you have an open fire
- Ensure all furniture and flammable items are moved away from the fire
- Avoid pouring water on the fire.
Even if you can’t see any damage to the chimney breast following a fire, it’s highly likely that damage will have occurred inside the flue. It’s very important that you hire the services of a professional chimney sweep to perform a Level 2 Chimney Inspection before any use.
To book your chimney inspection, contact a member of our experienced and helpful team today.