Chimney Safety

Keep Your Chimney Safe This Autumn

Fire and Rescue

Advice from Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service


After the summer break now temperatures are falling many people across Bedfordshire will begin lighting their open fires to warm their home and enjoy the flicker of a real coal or wood fire.

However lighting an unswept chimney could lead to a serious fire. In the last three years there have been 168 chimney fires in Bedfordshire and generally they are caused by lack of cleaning of the chimney or flue, a blockage in the flue, caused for example by a bird’s nest, or overloading of the open fire.

Chimney fires usually occur because not all the fuel (coal, wood, etc) is burnt during combustion and leaves combustible particles in the chimney 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.

Thomas Warner, Prevention Support Manager, said: “Keeping your chimney clean and free of debris helps prevent any build-up of combustible 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. Birds’ nests and other debris can also block the flue which means smoke and deadly carbon monoxide gas, released during burning, can seep back into the house poisoning the occupants.

“We recommend that you have a working Carbon Monoxide Detector in any room with solid fuel appliance.  Under new laws which are due to come into effect from October 2015 Landlords are required to fit carbon monoxide alarms in rooms containing solid fuel appliances.

“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 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.”

How often chimneys should be swept depends on the type of fuel used:

  • Smokeless fuels – at least once a year.
  • Bituminous coal – at least twice a year.
  • Wood – quarterly when in use.
  • Oil – once a year.
  • Gas – once a year (Any work on gas appliances requires a Gas Safe registered installer/engineer).

For further information on chimney safety, you can visit the association websites – /

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service have produced a short video giving advice about keeping your open fire and chimney safe, view it here:



Find your local chimney sweep

There are a number of associations where you can search for a chimney sweep:

In addition HETAS also lists Registered Installers through its Competent Person Scheme.

Find your local fuel supplier

HETAS lists approved fuel producers in partnership with Woodsure. At you can search for your local accredited biomass fuel supplier (search by logs, chips, briquettes, pellet and hog) along with a list of solid mineral fuels.

 HETAS provides a range of consumer advice leaflets with topics including:

  • Using Wood Fuels for a sustainable future.
  • Operating & Maintaining Your Stove.
  • Building Regulations & Legal Requirements.
  • Chimneys & Linings.
  • Protecting Yourself from Carbon Monoxide.
  • Smoke Control Areas.

8 September 2015


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