Chimney fires in Scotland traditionally account for around 1,000 incidents every year. This year’s Chimney Fire Safety Week (3 – 9 September), part of the national fire safety campaign, calls for homeowners to clean up their act and get their chimneys swept by an approved sweep to prevent chimney damage, and, in worse cases, household fires.
Firefighters are today reminding the public that having a certified sweep clear the flue makes disaster much less likely to strike.
Assistant Chief Officer David McGowan, the SFRS director of prevention and protection, explained: “Soot and fuel residues slowly build up over time and these leftovers can catch fire.
“This could send burning soot into the living room or start a fire that takes hold within the roof or on other floors of the house.
“Even if it doesn’t burn the house down, a chimney fire can leave a huge mess.
“Making sure a chimney is professionally swept and checked can significantly reduce the chance of a fire happening.”
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, while 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.
SFRS is also clear that it is important householders in properties with open fires only use them to burn the right type of material.
ACO McGowan added: “We would strongly discourage people from burning wet wood as it can cause a build-up in the flue and ultimately a chimney fire.
“Flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin should never be used to light a fire, things like paper or rubbish should not be burned in the grate and it’s also important the fire isn’t overloaded with fuel.
“Using a spark-guard when the fire is unattended will prevent embers setting fire to furniture or carpets.”
Defects in a chimney can also cause fires so people are encouraged to go into the loft or roof space occasionally to check the chimney while the fire is alight.
This will allow them to check for soot coming from cracks, 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 but if a fire does strike then early warning is crucial.
SFRS is clear every home needs to be protected by working smoke alarms on every level of the property.
Additional smoke alarms in living rooms and bedrooms, as well as heat alarms in kitchens, increase fire safety by providing people with further early warning in the event of a fire starting.
To find a certified chimney sweep, or for more information on chimney fire safety, please contact one of the following organisations:
Tel: 0845 634 5626
The National Association of Chimney Sweeps
Tel: 01785 811732
The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps
Tel: 01226 242357
The Institute of Chimney Sweeps
Tel: 01622 670333
Firefighters are available to conduct FREE Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) to prevent accidental dwelling fires from occurring and to protect the public from being injured in such events.
To book a Home Fire Safety Visit call 0800 0731 999, text “FIRE” to 80800.
For more information on maintaining your chimney and how can help with fire prevention.