Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) is calling for people to take extra care after a spate of fires involving chimneys and wood burning stoves.
Residents in Herefordshire and Worcestershire are advised to get their chimneys swept by an approved sweep if overdue to prevent damage and, in worst cases, household fires.
People with wood burning stoves, which are growing in popularity due to the spiralling cost of gas and electricity, are reminded to get them correctly installed and regularly maintained.
There has been a 240 per cent increase in incidents involving the appliances in Herefordshire and Worcestershire from 22 in 2021 to 75 last year.
This year from January 20 until 27 alone there were seven.
HETAS, the Heating Equipment Testing and Approvals Scheme, provides details of chimney sweeps at hetas.co.uk/consumer/services/chimney-sweeps.
Emma Roberts (pictured below), HWFRS Head of Prevention, said: “Sweeping your chimney at least once 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 chimney sweeps the opportunity to check for any problems with the chimney or liner.
“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.
“So, if your chimney is overdue for a sweep, now is the time to get it done and not add to the list of chimney fires.”
In December and January, HWFRS responded to 30 chimney fires in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, including 17 last month.
Fire crews were called out to Bromyard, Eardisley, Evesham, Ewyas Harold, Kingsland, Leominster, Malvern, Pershore, Peterchurch and Tenbury among other locations.
There were 79 chimney fires in 2022 and 1,407 occurred over 10 years between 1 April 2012 and 31 March 2022.
HWFRS recommends these top tips to keep safe from chimney fires:
Have your chimney swept regularly by a Certified Sweep, depending on what fuel you burn
Keep chimneys, flues and appliances clean and well maintained
Don’t store wood too close to the fire. Don't keep the logs on top of the stove or right next to it on the hearth
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 at a low or minimum output normally for overnight burning to be revived next day without having to relight it)
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
Have a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms with fuel burning heating
Don’t keep this advice to yourself – pass it on. Is there anyone you can help to organise a sweep or test their alarms?
How often should chimneys be swept?
Smokeless Fuels – at least once a year
Wood – quarterly when in use
Oil – once a year
Gas – once a year (refer to Gas Safe Register)
Emma added: “People wouldn’t think twice about getting their cars MOT’d but chimneys often get overlooked. Why not get the job done today if it is overdue?
“Don’t forget, HWFRS Prevention Technicians and Fire Crews are delighted to visit local residents and carry out a FREE Home Fire Safety visit if they qualify to help keep them safe in their homes.
“Just contact us on 0800 032 1155 to see if you qualify for a free Home Fire Safety visit or would like fire safety advice.
“You can also complete a FREE online Home Fire Safety check by following the link on our website.
“This easy-to-follow check will take you through your home a room at a time - the simple questions will help you spot fire risks and make your home safer.”
For more information on maintaining your chimney and helping with fire prevention, visit www.chimneyfiresafetyweek.co.uk.