It is important to make sure that when you burn solid fuel it is done in a safe and efficient way. One of the most hazardous risks in burning fuel is the possibility of a chimney fire.
In the UK there are around 6,000 chimney fires a year, but they are preventable if you maintain your chimney and use your fire correctly. Regularly having your chimney swept not only improves safety, but allows for your fire to burn at higher temperatures improving efficiently. Keeping your fire as efficient as possible will help you to save both money and fuel.
What Causes a Chimney Fire?
Chimney fires usually occur because of a build up of materials in the flue, this can be because of the incomplete combustion of fuel or not having it swept regularly. If your fire is not burning hot enough the fuel will not burn efficiently.
Rather than being consumed it will turn into vapours which travel up the chimney and then condense on its walls. It condenses as a thick tar which lines the chimney walls. If temperatures inside the chimney are high enough the deposits can then ignite. Chimney fires can burn very hot and internal flue temperatures can reach 1,200c.
What can you do to prevent a Chimney Fire?
One of the simplest steps you can take to prevent a chimney fire is to ensure that it is regularly swept and cleaned. The best time to have the chimney swept is just before winter begins. This ensures that you can keep warm all winter long without the worry of any problems occurring. Chimney sweeping also makes sure there are no other blockages in the way, such as bird’s nests or loose bricks. See our guide to having a professional chimney sweep.
- Smokeless Fuels – Sweep your chimney at least once a year.
- Bituminous Coal – Sweep your chimney at least twice a year.
There are other steps you can take to minimise the risk of a chimney fire.
Make sure you burn the correct fuel. If you are unsure check the manufacturer’s instructions. Incorrect fuel can damage the flue and can create a dangerous build up of deposits which block the chimney. Using the correct fuel also makes your appliance more efficient.
Do not use your fire as a waste paper bin. Fragments of paper can fly up the flue and set light to the soot.
Make sure there is good ventilation around the appliance. Effective combustion relies on a constant flow of air so make sure you have vents or air bricks in place.
General Fire Safety
Store your fuel away from your home and heating appliance.
Don’t leave open fires unattended and always use a fireguard, especially if there are young children nearby.
Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.