Chimney fire safety advice

To prevent fires:

  • Do not light fires using flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin
  • Do not burn paper or rubbish on fires in the grate
  • Do not overload the fire with fuel
  • Do use a spark guard when the fire is unattended to prevent embers setting fire to furnishings or carpets
  • Do go into the loft occasionally to check the chimney when the fire is alight. Check for smoke from cracks, defective brickwork or mortar joints.

Chimney sweeping is important. It helps to prevent chimney fires and reduces the risk of dangerous fume emissions from blocked heating appliances, flue-ways and chimneys.

Regular sweeping and maintenance of chimneys and flues eliminates the build up of soot from coal, wood, oil and gas fired systems. It also clears obstructions such as bird and animal nests, leaves and debris.

  • Chimneys using smokeless fuel should be swept at least once a year
  • Chimneys using bituminous coal should be swept at least once a year
  • Chimneys using oil should be swept once a year
  • Chimney using wood should be swept quarterly, when in use.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning

Fuel burning appliances need air and ventilation to work safely – otherwise they may kill people.

Heating and cooking appliances fuelled by coal, smokeless fuels, wood, oil and gas can cause CO poisoning if they are poorly installed, incorrectly used or if they are not properly and regularly maintained.

When fuel does not burn properly, it produces poisonous CO gas. CO poisoning kills people.

It can also damage your health permanently.

The early symptoms of CO poisoning are: Tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness, chest pains and nausea.

Make sure you are not at risk from CO poisoning by:

  • Having appliances installed and properly checked by competent engineers.
  • Getting your chimney or flue inspected and swept
  • Not overloading a fire and only burning the fuel it is designed for, and;
  • Fitting a carbon monoxide detector.

Heating appliances must be able to breathe in order to function efficiently, whatever type of fuel they burn. To breathe, they need a constant and sufficient flow of air, so make sure the room is not completely airtight.

If your home has draught proofing or double glazing fitted, you may need vents or air bricks in an exterior wall of the room. If you already have the vents or air bricks, make sure they are not blocked or covered.

  • Blocked chimneys cause toxic fumes to come back into the room – get them swept every year.
  • Always have the chimney swept if you decide to re-use the fireplace.
  • Make sure new water heaters in a bathroom are fitted to a balanced flue.
  • Never block the outside grille of the flue.
  • Never block air bricks or vents.
  • If you fit an extractor fan or hood, make sure it does not suck toxic fumes back down flues or chimneys.
  • When you fit double glazing or draught proofing, make sure there is still enough air for the heaters in the room.
  • Have your gas or oil fired boiler service and the flue checked once a year.

Chimney fire safety advice was last updated on July 4, 2017.


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