Date: 20th February, 2017
It usually takes place before the first fire of the season is lit, but insurer NFU Mutual is warning homeowners in Wiltshire and Dorset who use stoves and open fires frequently to sweep their chimney twice a year to prevent a house fire.
Latest figures from NFU Mutual show that over the past three years, half of chimney fire claims in Dorset and Wiltshire were made between January and March.
Anna Matthews, Home Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual in Chippenham, said: “As the number of fires being lit over a prolonged period increases so too does the risk of chimney fires. The rise in fires from January to March highlights that not only should a flue or chimney be swept before the first fire of the season, but if an open fire or wood burning stove is frequently used then it should be swept again during the colder months.
“Fire can devastate lives and properties so it’s important people protect themselves through the regular inspection and cleaning of chimneys and flues.”
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service Rural Safety Crew Manager, Paul Noke added: “During the colder months of winter and early spring, we attend numerous chimney fires across both counties, many of which can be avoided through regular cleaning and maintenance. The value of ensuring your chimneys are regularly swept and cleaned professionally, cannot be underestimated. It’s always worth remembering that the best way to stop a fire is to not have one in the first place.”
Over the last three years, NFU Mutual has paid out over £6 million nationally in chimney fire claims.
The insurer has warned that wood burning or multi fuel stoves, which reach high temperatures, can increase the risk of fire, particularly with thatched properties, as they send more live sparks and embers out of the chimney. Homeowners should also ensure that they only burn seasoned hardwood.
While thatched homes are no more likely to suffer a fire than homes with a conventional roof, if a thatched roof does ignite the fire is very difficult to control and the results can be devastating.
“Many homeowners do not appreciate the costs of re-building a property, particularly if it is listed, so it is important that people check their buildings and contents are properly insured should a fire occur,” Anna Matthews continued.
NFU Mutual has provided a checklist to help keep your chimney in check:
- Chimneys should be routinely checked or surveyed to ensure that they are structurally sound, well-maintained and able to cope with the demands of modern heating appliances;
- Your chimney should be swept by a professional chimney sweep at least twice a year if it is in use frequently or all year round.
- Your chimney lining (if you have one) should also be regularly inspected, especially when the main fuel is wood, as tar deposits are highly combustible and corrosive. A qualified chimney sweep should be able to identify potential problems at an early stage;
- Only burn seasoned hardwood;
- Speak to your local fire safety officer for further advice about fire prevention;
- Fit a bird guard to deter birds from building nests in your chimney;
- Check the electrical system throughout your home.