What causes chimney fires?

Published October 4, 2019

Read time 3 mins

With over 200 people losing their lives to chimney fires in the UK last year, chimney fires are a risk all homeowners should be aware of. The recent Chimney Fire Safety Week, which took place during the first full week of September, focused on raising awareness of the risks associated with chimney fires – and the best way to prevent one happening in your home is to know how chimney fires are caused. Here are some of the main causes of chimney fires in the home.

Causes of chimney fires

Infrequent sweeping: Regular cleaning won’t just help keep your fireplace looking presentable – it could also save your life. When a chimney isn’t swept and cleaned regularly, flammable deposits can quickly build up. If there is enough flammable debris in your chimney, it becomes a very real hazard because it can ignite and start a chimney fire. Don’t take any chances when it comes to caring for your chimney. Get it cleaned regularly to avoid creating any unnecessary risks in your home.

Overnight burning: It can be tempting to leave your fire burning overnight, especially in the colder months. It’s a move that’s best avoided, though, if you want to decrease your chances of a chimney fire. Any fire left unattended poses a risk, and the only way to avoid it is by making sure it’s fully extinguished before bed.

Burning unseasoned wet wood: Wood should be seasoned before burning to reduce the amount of moisture in it. If the wood you burn in your home contains more than 25% moisture, it will produce more smoke and release more small particles into the air. This can lead to a greater buildup of creosote in your chimney and increase the risk of a fire.

Keep your fireplace safe

To minimise the risk of a chimney fire breaking out in your home, be sure to always keep your chimney as clean as possible. Make sure you only use quality woodfuel and avoid burning paper, cardboard or anything other than dry wood. You may also want to use a safeguard to protect your home from any flying sparks or ember when the fire is in use. Having an adequate number of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors will help reduce the risks should a fire break out, so make sure you have one fitted near your fireplace too.

How to recognise a chimney fire

You might think it would be obvious if your chimney catches fire, but sadly that isn’t always the case. If a fire breaks out in your home, knowing what to look out for can help you recognise the signs of a chimney fire as early as possible and limit the amount of damage it causes. The first sign you will probably notice will be a roaring sound in the chimney. This is especially noticeable with an open fire. The sound will be accompanied by a large amount of smoke coming out of the chimney, which will eventually be joined by flames. If you notice this, you should get out of the house and call 999 immediately.

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