Did you know around 65 fires a year are caused by faulty electric blankets, two fires a day are caused by heaters and, in England on average, 7,700 chimney fires occur every year.
What causes chimney fires?
Chimney fires usually occur because the deposits of combustion are left within the flue-ways. By definition, a chimney fire is the burning of soot or creosote within the appliance, outlet or flue system. This can result in the improper function of the appliance and serious damage to the flue, house or surrounding structures. A build-up of soot in the chimney could cause a serious house fire. Chimney fires usually occur when high temperatures or flames from a very hot fire extend into the appliance outlet or flue and ignite a build-up of combustible deposits in the flue or chimney.
Why are they so dangerous?
Chimney fires can be very dangerous. They can damage your fireplace, wood-burner, flue or chimney and they can spread quickly throughout your house and even neighbouring properties.
What can you do to prevent a chimney fire?
The best way to prevent a chimney fire is to have your chimney swept on a regular basis to remove the build-up of soot and deposits that occurs through regular burning of carbon-based fuels. Sweeping your chimney ensures there is a clear and safe passage for the exit of combustion by-products. It’s important to remember that all fuels contain carbon – including oil, gas, wood, charcoal, coal, and smokeless fuel – and care should always be taken with all flues to ensure safety. Not only will this prevent a chimney fire, but it will also help prevent the production of carbon monoxide, which can result from incomplete combustion. Sweeping will also ensure the safe removal of obstructions lodged in the flues such as nests, cobwebs, and even loose brickwork which could prevent safe exit of combustion by-products. It’s important to have your chimney swept regularly – and how often it should be swept depends on the type of fuel used. Here’s a handy guide:
- Smokeless fuels – at least once per year
- Bituminous coal – at least twice per year
- Wood – quarterly when in use
- Oil – once a year
- Gas – once a year (any work on gas appliances requires a Gas Safe-registered installer/engineer)
There are also a number of other tips to help keep you safe and these can be found below:
- Never interrupt air-supply by blocking air vents or air bricks
- Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers
- Make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed
- Only burn seasoned wood from reputable suppliers
- Ensure the fire is fully-extinguished before going to bed
- Make sure you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms
- Ensure your chimney is well-maintained
This detailed Heat Your Home Safely Guide, produced by the National Association of Chimney Sweeps, offers advice and guidance on how to heat your home safely using an open fire.
For more information and to find a professional chimney sweep, check out the websites and PDF document below:
A blocked flue can kill and the exclusion of air will put out a fire.
Central heating is a much more efficient and safe way of heating a house but, if you have to use a portable heater follow these guidelines:
- Keep portable heaters away from curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
- Do not sit too close to the heater – remember stop, drop and roll if your clothes catch fire.
- Always unplug electric heaters when you go out or go to bed.
- Try to secure heaters against a wall to stop them falling over.
- Only use gas or paraffin heaters in well-ventilated areas.
- Heaters consume oxygen so you could suffocate if a room is not properly aired.
- Ensure your gas or paraffin heater is serviced as per manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector in any room where you have a fuel burning heater. Carbon monoxide is a potentially fatal gas which is invisible and odourless.
Electric blankets can help you keep warm during the cold nights, but fires can be devastating with 440 injuries resulting from every 1000 fires started by an electric blanket. Therefore, there are fire safety issues to consider:
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if the blanket is switched off.
- Unplug blankets before you get into bed, unless they have a thermostat control for safe all-night use.
- Store electric blankets flat or rolled up or loosely folded to prevent damaging the internal wiring.
- Do not buy second-hand blankets and check regularly for wear and tear. It is recommended you get your blanket serviced every three years. Replace your blanket when it is more than 10 years old.
If electricity fails and a power cut occurs, keep a battery operated light or torch handy. Modern LED torches and lanterns are a lot brighter and last much longer than a tradition torch. They are also known to be a lot safer than candles and are less of a fire risk. We advise you to avoid naked flames. If you do use candles, always take special care. Put them out completely before leaving the room or going to bed. Make sure candles are secured in a proper holder and away from materials that may catch fire – like curtains. Keep a charged mobile phone handy so you can still make an emergency call if there is a power cut.
For more information on staying warm at winter, see the leaflet below: