Make a clean sweep before winter sets in

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Now temperatures are falling many people across Bedfordshire will be lighting their open fires to warm their home and enjoy the flicker of a real coal or wood fire.

But each year there are chimney fires in Bedfordshire that are generally caused by lack of sweeping of the chimney or flue or a blockage in the flue.

Chimney fires usually occur because not all the fuel (coal, wood etc.) is burnt during combustion and leaves combustible particles coating the chimney flue that can be ignited by high temperatures or flames from a very hot fireplace. This can cause the chimney to weaken and ignite other parts of the house with devastating consequences.

To prevent this happening:

>Ensure your chimney is swept regularly by a professional chimney sweep

>Between “sweeps” keep chimneys, flues and appliances clean and well maintained

>Always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers

>Store fuel away from the appliance so sparks do not set it alight

>Ensure the fire is completely out before going to bed or leaving the house

>Ensure good quality and appropriate fuel is used

> Avoid blocking air vents or air bricks or interrupting the air supply

Steve Allen, Homes, Roads & Leisure Safety Manager, said: “Keeping your chimney clean and free of debris helps prevent any build-up of combustible soot deposits that could catch fire. During the summer, when chimneys aren’t used much, they can also become home to birds’ nests, cobwebs or other material that helps a chimney fire start. This debris can also block the flue which can lead to smoke and deadly carbon monoxide gas, released naturally during burning, seeping back into the house poisoning the occupants.

“We recommend that you have a working carbon monoxide detector in any room with a solid fuel appliance. Under new laws, which came into effect last year, landlords are required to fit carbon monoxide alarms in rooms containing solid fuel appliances. Every home should also have a working smoke detector on each floor.

“Home insurance policies often state you should take reasonable care of your chimney and for thatched properties could specify how often your chimney is swept.

Ignoring this could mean you are uninsured if your chimney catches fire, so check your policy and have your chimney swept.

“Even chimneys that have been lined still require regular sweeping and if you have “slumber” mode* on an appliance please avoid using this as much as possible.

Having your chimney swept also enables you to get advice from an expert about chimney safety. Why not remind your friends and family to get theirs swept as well.”