Sweep away the threat of fire and get your chimney inspected and swept

Last autumn and winter local firefighters were called to 97 residential chimney fires, many of which may have been prevented if proper maintenance checks had been carried out.

Sweeping chimneys properly removes deposits that may have built up via the burning of carbon-based fuels and objects such as nests, cobwebs and loose brickwork, as well as allowing a clear passage for combustible gases, therefore reducing the likelihood of chimneys catching fire.

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service also recommends people have their chimney breasts inspected by a competent engineer to ensure structural integrity, particularly in the roof space.

Firefighters say the advice is extremely important if properties have thatched roofs, as the checks would ensure a chimney's structure is sound, preventing sparks, fumes or fire from escaping through cracks or broken brickwork.

National Chimney Safety Week

The guidance, issued in the run-up to Chimney Fire Safety Week (8-14 September) and part of 365alive, an education programme designed to reduce fire and rescue-related incidents through preventative work, also advises people to use a fireguard around an open fire to protect against flying sparks and to ensure that embers are properly extinguished before going to bed.

Firefighters also urge residents to ensure they have working smoke alarms fitted and to test them each week, as well as having an established escape plan which all occupants of the home are aware of.

Potentially dangerous if not swept

Stuart Garner, Home and Community Safety Manager for Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service, said: "There were nearly 100 chimney fires in Oxfordshire between the beginning of October last year and the end of this March, many of which may have been prevented by better chimney maintenance.

"I would like to encourage residents to get their chimneys swept and inspected, as without proper maintenance a chimney can become dangerous and a potential source of a far more serious fire.

"If the worst should happen, a smoke alarm can give people the extra time they may need to escape a house fire, which could be caused by a blocked chimney. It is essential people have working smoke alarms fitted, that they are tested once a week and that an escape plan is established and shared with all occupants of a property.

Reduce the risk

Councillor Rodney Rose, Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, who has Cabinet responsibility for Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: "By carrying out a few simple maintenance checks and ensuring chimneys are swept properly people can dramatically reduce the likelihood of a chimney fire in their homes.

"It is simple to find registered chimney sweeps and structural engineers who can visit homes and do the necessary work and I would highly recommend people to get in touch with such professionals."

Visit The National Association of Chimney Sweeps website or ring 01785 811732 to find a local registered chimney sweep. Go to the National Association of Chimney Engineers website or call 01526 322555 to get in touch with a local registered structural chimney engineer.