16 Feb 2009

30,000 chimney fires annually: time for action

Having had friends have a chimney fire that was very serious, I have long been aware of this issue - indeed I grew up with my parents having the sweep regularly come each year - yet in todays world of central heating it seems many don't know or seem to have forgotton the importance of a regular clean.

I was in Norway to visit family a while back and there it is mandatory to have your chimney swept - maybe we are getting closer to the point where we need that here? Certainly there needs to be much greater awareness - it is likely with rising fuel prices in the future that more will turn to using their hearths. How can we protect neighbours and all from those not responsibly looking after their fires?

The Citizen's article on chimney fires is a timely reminder of the importance of regular sweeping (9/02/09). Chimney fires account for 43% of all calls to accidental fires in Gloucestershire and appear to have been the cause of both recent fires in The Golden Fleece and The Duke of York pubs in Nelson Street, Stroud. There are some 30,000 home chimney fires annually!

High fuel prices and colder weather have meant more people are using their open fires and burners this winter. A minimum of once a year clean is crucial to remove the flammable substances and soot that tends to build up with use. Amazingly Coal soot and Wood tar chimney fires can create temperatures up to 1200 degrees centrigrade inside the chimney.

Indeed many European countries have made regular chimney cleanings mandatory. Germany, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden all have significantly reduced the number of home chimney fires thanks to initiatives taken by their government and insurance companies. It is time we took additional measures in this country to reduce the unacceptable number of fires?

Philip Booth

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