Rise in chimney fires sparks warning from West Sussex firefighters

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A SHARP rise in chimney fires across the county has sparked a safety warning from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.

Firefighters were been called out to seven separate chimney fires last weekend. Luckily, crews were able to extinguish the blazes quickly, but chimney fires can be devastating.

Jackie Boyle, community risk reduction officer, said: “Over the last few days temperatures have really dropped and the cold weather has started to bite. Naturally, many people are now turning to open fires to keep out the winter chill, but if basic safety precautions aren’t followed they can become a serious fire hazard. The best piece of advice we can give to anyone planning to light a fire is to make sure they get their chimney checked and swept.

“Chimney fires are one of the most common incidents that our crews attend, but many could so easily have been avoided. The consequence of a chimney fire isn’t just the damage caused by the blaze itself, there is also the damage from the soot and smoke, that can affect all of your personal property.”

“If you are able to, inspect your chimney breast, particularly in the roof space. Make sure that it is sound and that the sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks. Of course, you should also make sure you have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home - that early warning to a fire really is a lifesaver and means damage to your property can hopefully be kept to a minimum.”

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service offers the following advice:

- Have your chimney swept at least once a year, twice a year if burning wood.

- When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only.

- Build smaller, hotter fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.

- Never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper.

- Never use petrol or paraffin to light your fire.

- Do not overload the grate or appliance.

- Use a fire or spark guard to prevent accidental fires.

- Ensure the fire is fully extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house.

- Make sure wood burners and other fire appliances are installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

To find your local chimney sweep, contact the National Association of Chimney Sweeps on freephone 0800 833464 or www.nacs.org.uk