Chimney Fire Safety

Proper chimney care and maintenance helps prevent damage and household fires. Find out how to care for yours.

How do chimneys catch fire?

Soot and fuel residues slowly build up in chimneys over time, and these leftovers can catch fire. If this happens, the chimney could send burning soot into your living room, start fires within the roof space, or on other floors of the house. You can help prevent this by having your chimney swept regularly by a certified sweep. 

How often should you sweep your chimney?

Before winter arrives, you should give your chimney a thorough cleaning, as dust, debris or blockages can occur when it is not used regularly during the summer months. 

The type of fuel burned in a fire determines how often the chimney should be swept:

  • Where smokeless coals are burned, the chimney should be swept at least once each year. 
  • Fires burning bituminous coal or peat need to have the chimney swept twice per year. 
  • A chimney serving a fire where wood is burned should be swept quarterly when it is in use. 

If you use a mixture of fuels, your chimney should be swept the highest number of times, which is quarterly.  

Spotting chimney defects

Defects in a chimney can also cause fires. People are encouraged to go into the loft or roof space, if they are physically able to do so, to check the chimney while the fire is alight. 

Check for smoke or soot coming from cracks and defective brickwork or mortar joints. 

Taking these steps prior to the winter months, when fires are likely to be in greater use, will help prevent emergencies from happening. 

What alarms to use when using a chimney

If a fire does breakout, then early warning is crucial. Your home should have fire and smoke alarms which need to include:   

  • one smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes
  • one smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings
  • one heat alarm installed in every kitchen 
  • a carbon monoxide detector fitted in any room where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance such as boilers, fires including open fires, heaters and stoves or a flue

All smoke and heat alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked. A carbon monoxide detector does not need to be interlinked.  

Spotting chimney fires

Chimney fires are not always obvious, as much of the signs are hidden away from view. You should look out for: 

  • burning soot and detritus falling out of the chimney
  • a roaring sound in the chimney
  • chimney breast too hot to touch
  • hot walls in upstairs room
  • sparks or flames coming out at the top of chimney
  • discolouration of skirting boards around the hearth or very warm hearthstone

Further help

Chimney Fire Safety Week has more information on maintaining your chimney and preventing fires. 

Firefighters are available to conduct a home fire safety visit to prevent accidental dwelling fires from occurring and to protect the public from being injured in such events. 

This safety advice is also available in our guide to chimney safety leaflet.

Chimney Fire Safety Week  

Established in 2009, Chimney Fire Safety Week is part of the national fire safety campaign. The week focuses on educating people on the safe use of chimneys, including regular cleaning, and using quality fuel to avoid fires. 

External organisations

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