With temperatures predicted to plummet next week and many people turning to the warmth of an open fire for the first time this winter firefighters are urging people to ensure their chimney is ready for colder weather.
Although open fires and wood burning stoves are a comforting way to keep the winter chill at bay they can become a serious safety hazard if simple precautions are not followed.
West Sussex firefighters were called to extinguish 144 chimney fires last year (January 1 2015 - 31 December 2015) with the highest number occurring during January and February.
West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service Community Fire Safety Manager, Jackie Boyle, explains:
"The weather is predicted to turn considerably colder and we know people are turning to open fires - just last night our crews were called to two separate chimney fires. Thankfully, both were contained quickly, but they can be devastating. 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.
"A blocked or defective chimney can cause both chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning so we’d recommend installing a carbon monoxide detector if you’re burning solid fuel. You should also make sure you have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home - early detection saves lives."
West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service offers the following advice:
•Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained
•Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers
•Ensure the fire is fully extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house
•When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only
•Never use petrol or paraffin to light your fire
•Do not overload the grate or appliance
•Make sure wood burners and other fire appliances are installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
Regular maintenance of your chimney will depend on the fuel you burn:
•Smokeless coals - At least once a year
•Wood - Up to four times a year
•Bituminous coal - Twice a year
•Oil - Once a year
•Gas - Once a year
Watch this short film clip on how to prevent a chimney fire in your home https://youtu.be/EpC8hcsj4tU