Chimney Fire Safety

chimney fire
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With the cooler temperatures behind us it might seem counterintuitive to be thinking about a chimney fire.

Yet the break in the weather provides an excellent opportunity to thoroughly clean your chimney, inspect the flue and double check that you are using your chimney safely.

More chimney fires in Ireland than other countries

Data from the Department of Housing and Local Government in December 2020 showed that 2,137 call-outs were made by fire brigades in Ireland (excluding Dublin) due to chimneys, flues, soot and/or hot ashes.

According to the National Directorate of Fire and Emergency, Ireland burns many more chimney fires than other countries, largely due to burning of timber and turf.

Chimney fires are typically caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • build-up of soot, grease and tar that forms as a result of fuel burning.
  • letting chimneys burn continuously overnight.
  • burning wet wood or unseasoned turf.
  • burning rubbish or the wrong type of fuel.

Fire isn’t the only risk – protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.

Fire isn’t the only concern when it comes to chimneys; Carbon Monoxide (C02) is an odourless, tasteless and colourless gas that can cause poisoning, and even death.

Poorly ventilated areas, faulty appliances such as gas stoves, and blocked chimneys can contribute towards C02 emissions that can be very dangerous to the health of people living in your home.

The importance of regular chimney inspections

Regular chimney inspections are essential to ensure your chimney is operating safely; they will significantly reduce the risk of chimney fire and the build-up of gas emissions such as carbon monoxide.   

Always choose a professional, certified chimney sweep to inspect and clean your chimney to ensure they have the experience and proper training to inspect your chimney and identify key risks. How often you clean your chimney will depend on how much you use it.

Your certified chimney sweep can offer specific guidance according to your usage pattern but in general, you should look to have your chimney cleaned and inspected according to the following guide:

  • wood burning fires – twice a year.
  • solid fuel (smokeless) fires – once a year.
  • solid fuel (coal) fires – twice a year.
  • oil fires – once a year.
  • gas fires (if intended for sweeping) – once a year.

Crack in your chimney flue? Stop burning immediately.

If you suspect a crack in your chimney flue, stop using your fireplace or stove immediately until you have had it professionally inspected.

A crack in your chimney flue can pose real danger; any type of crack, breach or deterioration of your chimney or liner, no matter how small, can expose other parts of your home to the chimney’s high temperatures and can cause them to combust.

A certified chimney sweep will conduct a series of safety checks and thoroughly examine your chimney for damage. If a crack, breach or deterioration is identified, you should wait until your chimney is repaired before burning fuel again.

How to prevent chimney fire and C02 poisoning

There are a range of actions you can take to protect your home and loved ones from a chimney fire and C02 poisoning, including:

  • schedule regular chimney cleaning and inspections with a professional, certified chimney sweep.
  • use the right fuel for your fire or stove as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • never burn rubbish in your fire or stove.
  • install a chimney cap to help prevent debris such as leaves and birds’ nests falling into your chimney and catching alight.
  • install smoke alarms and C02 alarms to provide an alert in the event smoke or noxious C02 gas is detected in your home.

What to do in the event of a chimney fire

A chimney fire is an emergency and it should be treated as such.

  • In the first instance, evacuate the house as quickly as possible and ensure everyone gets to safety.
  • Don’t be tempted to stay behind to collect your things; chimney fires can spread quickly and present a real danger to anyone inside the home.
  • Call 999 from your landline, or 112 from mobile, to alert the fire brigade.
  • As with any property fire, do not go back inside until the experts tell you it is safe to do so. When you do, don’t touch or move anything, and never carry out repairs until advised you can do so, because this might prejudice your insurance claim.
  • Photograph evidence of the chimney fire carefully and keep these in a safe place.

If you plan to make an insurance claim, phone CMG for claims advice first.

In the aftermath of disaster, the CMG team is dedicated to helping people get back on their feet.

Dealing with the destruction caused by a chimney fire can be very stressful, from managing the clean up to sourcing quotations and information to support an insurance claim.

CMG specialises in removing your claim burden by preparing all the paperwork associated with your claim, lodging it with your insurer on your behalf, and negotiating with your insurer and their loss adjuster to secure the maximum settlement under your policy terms.

We also provide a range of support services in the aftermath of a chimney fire. For example, we can help arrange alternative accommodation if you cannot go back to your home after a fire. We can also coordinate emergency repair work and organise cleaning contractors to help clean-up the debris and mess left behind by a fire.

Importantly, our expert loss assessors will carefully assess the total damage caused by the fire, including smoke and water damage that might not be spotted early on but cause long-term structural damage to your home.

We can also arrange independent contractors to complete your repair works and supervise them until the works are completed. To find out more about how CMG can help you get back on your feet faster after a chimney fire, or if you need help with a claim, please call a member of our team today on 0818 118 118 (ROI) or 028 8224 9015 (NI).

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