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07 March 2017

Make sure your chimney is safe!

With the increase in the number of chimney fires in the early part of this year, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service are urging householders to ensure their chimney is safe and to have their chimney swept by a registered chimney sweep. 

What causes chimney fires?

Chimney fires occur when the deposits of combustion are left within the flueways. By definition, a chimney fire is the burning of soot or creosote within the appliance, outlet or flue system, which can result in improper function of the appliance, damage to the flue, house or surrounding structures and it can even start a house fire.

The most common causes of chimney fires are:

  • Infrequent sweeping and cleaning
  • Burning unseasoned wet wood
  • Improper appliance sizing
  • Overnight burning or smouldering wood for long periods in wood stoves

Preventing chimney fires
Chimneys must be swept on a regular basis this can be as much as three times in the burning season (winter) but at least once per season regardless of fuel type.

  • All wood burned must have a moisture content of no more than 25 percent.
  • It is important to purchase the correct size appliance for your room, an appliance which is too large will never be used hot enough to volatize all of the fuel within the wood and unburned fuel will pass up the chimney as smoke and condense within the flue as extremely flammable creosote.

Chimney Sweeping

Chimney sweeping is important. The function of sweeping the flue/chimney is to remove the deposits that build up when the burning of carbon based fuels occur. By sweeping the flue/chimney it ensures that there is a clear and safe passage for the safe exit of combustion products, which are caused by the burning process, this lessens the chances of the chimney catching fire.

Sweeping will also ensure the safe removal of obstructions that may have lodged inside the flue:

  • Nests
  • Cobwebs
  • Flue collapse (loose brickwork), which could prevent the safe exit of products of combustion

The other function of a chimney sweep is to help and advise people in the safe use of the appliance or intended appliance they may be called out to sweep.

How often should you have your chimney swept? 

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


It is important to remember that all fuels contain carbon - including oil, gas, wood, charcoal, coal and smokeless fuel - and care should be taken with all flues at all times to ensure its safe use. If you do not get complete combustion then carbon monoxide will be produced.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

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, and potentially deadly, CO gas. It can also damage your health permanently, the early symptoms of CO poisoning are: tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness, chest pains and nausea.


Householders can reduce the risk of CO poisoning by:

  • having appliances installed and properly checked by competent engineers
  • getting chimneys and flues inspected and swept
  • not overloading a fire and only burning the fuel it is designed for; and
  • Fitting a carbon monoxide detector.
If you any concerns about fire safety in the home or would like a free home safety visit contact Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service on 0800 3584777.

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With the increase in the number of chimney fires in the early part of this year, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service are urging householders to ensure their chimney is safe and to have their chimney swept by a registered chimney sweep.