30 July 2012
1,400 Chimney Fires in 2011 – Sweep Up Your Fire Safety
Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) attended over 1,400 chimney fires in 2011 representing just over 5% of all incidents attended by NIFRS that year. This Chimney Fire Safety Week (30 July – 5 August) NIFRS is reminding householders that chimney fires can be easily prevented by getting chimneys swept regularly to ensure that they are safe and clean for use. NIFRS advise that summer time is an ideal time to do this before the colder months set in and householders begin to use the open fire in their homes to stay warm.
Alan Hamill, Group Commander, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said:
“With summer in full swing an open fire is the last thing on most peoples’ minds, but this Chimney Fire Safety Week we are urging anyone who plans to light their fire this coming autumn and winter to be ‘fire safe’ and have the flue swept first. The cost of a chimney sweep, once a year, is very small when compared to dealing with the damage and cost of repair after a chimney fire not to mention the potential threat to life if the chimney fire were to spread to the rest of the property.
“With the rising cost of home heating, open fires are becoming an increasingly common way to save money but we are encouraging people not to make cut backs when it comes to their fire safety. All chimney fires have the potential to be extremely dangerous, however with regular inspection and cleaning of the chimney flue, the chances of a fire can be greatly reduced.
“A clean chimney flue creates a clear and safe passage, lowering the risk of the chimney catching fire. Sweeping will also mean that objects such as nests, cobwebs and loose brickwork are cleared, which also helps minimise the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Summer is the best time to get your chimney swept before the peak season for chimney sweeps kicks in and before you start using your fire in the colder months. Also ensure that you have working smoke alarms in your home and if you think you have a chimney fire call 999 immediately and ask for the Fire & Rescue Service.”
To find a certified chimney sweep visit the Northern Ireland Association of Chimney Sweeps – www.niacs.co.uk
Notes to editors:
1 - Further fire safety advice in relation to Chimney Fires.
Chimney Fire Prevention Tips
Using a chimney sweep will:-
- Eliminate the build up of soot.
- Clear blockages such as nests, cobwebs and loose brickwork, which could obstruct the chimney.
- Prevent fumes from a blocked flue entering the room, causing drowsiness and potentially asphyxiation.
- Provide valuable advice on any remedial work that may be necessary.
- Help prevent chimney fires.
Air is vital. Heating appliances must be able to ‘breathe’ in order to function efficiently, whatever type of fuel they burn. To ‘breathe’ heating appliances need a constant and sufficient flow of air, so make sure the room is not completely airtight. If your home has double glazing fitted or draught proofing you may require air vents or air bricks in an exterior wall of the room to allow a sufficient flow of air. If you already have air vents ensure they are not blocked or covered.
Precautions with open fires and stoves
- Do not overfill an open fire grate in case hot coals fall out.
- Always use a spark guard, and if you have young children or pets consider using a safety guard.
- Do not place a mirror above a fire, people may stand too close.
- Do not position furniture or fabrics too close to the fire.
- Make sure the fire is out before going to bed at night or leaving the house.
- Never interrupt the air supply in a room by blocking the air vents or air bricks.
- Have a working smoke alarm on every floor and test it every week.
How do I know when I have a chimney fire?
- Excessive amounts of smoke or smells can be noticeable in adjoining rooms or the loft space.
- Embers falling down the chimney.
- Sparks or flames visible from chimney top, which can be similar to fireworks in appearance.
- A loud roaring noise, this is the result of massive amounts of air being sucked through the burner or fireplace opening.
- Brickwork around the chimney breast can be very hot.
What to do in the event of a chimney fire
- Put the spark guard on, call 999 and ask for the Fire Service. It will help if someone can wait outside to meet them.
- Move furniture and rugs away from the fireplace and remove any nearby ornaments.
- Feel the chimney breast in other rooms for signs of heat.
- Ensure that access to your attic or roof space is available for the Fire Service, as they will want to thoroughly check this area for signs of possible fire spread.
- REMEMBER – If it is left unattended, a chimney fire can spread into the rest of the house.
- Some people fear that they will be charged for the Fire & Rescue Service attending a chimney fire – this is not true.
- After a chimney fire has been put out, the chimney must be inspected as soon as possible. A competent sweep should carry out a thorough inspection before the chimney is used again, to see if there has been any damage caused, and any remedial work needed.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon-based fuels. This includes heating and cooking appliances fuelled by gas, oil, wood, smokeless fuels and coal that have not been properly installed, maintained or that are poorly ventilated. Carbon-based fuels are safe to use. It is only when the fuel does not burn properly that excess CO is produced, which is poisonous.
What are the symptoms of CO poisoning?
· Loss of consciousness
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