Residents urged to sweep and maintain chimneys after recent fires

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Northamptonshire residents are being urged to make sure that they check their chimneys and maintain them properly after a growing number of fires in recent days.

As temperatures get colder during winter, the use of chimneys increases as families relax in front of the fire – but this also makes it one of the busiest times of the year for firefighters to be called out.

Over an eight-day period between November 11-19, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service was called to five chimney related incidents. This is a much higher rate than usual, where on average it is called to between 50-60 chimney fires over the course of 12 months.

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One of the recent incidents included a fire last week in Towcester, where a blaze started in a chimney flue that had not been cleaned in over a year. Fire crews from Towcester and Mereway managed to contain the fire to the flue before extinguishing it and recommending that the homeowners get their chimney professionally swept before its next use.

Northamptonshire Fire is urging people to clean their chimneys ahead of using them this winterNorthamptonshire Fire is urging people to clean their chimneys ahead of using them this winter
Northamptonshire Fire is urging people to clean their chimneys ahead of using them this winter

Chimneys should be cleaned four times a year if you are using wood, twice a year if you are using coal, and at least once a year if you are using smokeless fuels, oil or gas.

Tina Collett, a Prevention Team Leader at Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We know during winter that people start to consider using the fireplace for the first time in a while, but it is important that chimneys are well swept before using them for the first time this winter.

“Getting a professional chimney sweep to clean it will be a worthwhile investment and help to keep your home safe. Chimney fires can end up being absolutely devastating if they spread to the rest of your home, and during winter and ahead of Christmas we want to make sure that those risks are not ignored.”

Here are some top tips for avoiding a chimney fire:

  • Keep your chimney and flue clean and well maintained
  • Ensure any fire is extinguished properly before leaving the house or going to bed
  • Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks
  • Install smoke alarms on every level of your house and test them regularly

If you have a chimney fire, remember the following:

  • Your first option should be to get out, stay out and ring 999
  • If it is safe for you to do so however, shut all air vents and flue dampers to reduce oxygen supply
  • Move flammable materials such as furniture away from the fireplace
  • For more tips on how to stay safe for Christmas, visit the Northamptonshire Fire & Rescue Service winter safety page