Chimney fires up as cold weather strikes

Chimney fires are on the increase in Shropshire as householders continue to ignore warnings to get their chimney swept.

As temperatures plunge, more home owners turn to open fires and wood burners to stay warm - leading to 28 fires in the first 28 days of January. There were 14 recorded chimney fires in January 2012 - half of this year's incidents.

Firefighters from across the county have been turning out to deal with incidents involving log burners, Rayburns and open fires.

Today community fire prevention officers from Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service issued a stark warning to householders to call in a chimney sweep to prevent a serious fire in their homes.

They also warned against using unseasoned wood which leaves tar deposits inside chimneys and flues which catch fire. There is also the danger of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning from unswept chimneys clogged by soot and smoke. Leaving a fire burning overnight is also dangerous.

“A chimney fire makes a horrible mess in your home with the smell of smoke lingering for weeks. At worst they can lead to a serious house fire as flames spread through the roof space and if this happens at night when everyone is asleep the results could end in tragedy,” warned Rabinder Dhami, the department’s team leader.

People were looking at cheaper ways to heat their homes but should always use a qualified installer to fit a Rayburn. Without it their insurance could be at risk if there was a fire, he said.

“With the weather forecast to remain cold the use of chimneys will continue. We just urge people to take precautions, call in a sweep, and ensure you have a working smoke alarm and carbon monoxide monitor installed.

“It would also be useful if people can remind their friends, family and neighbours about the steps needed to prevent such a fire in the home,” added Rabinder.

Over the past two years, firefighters attended a staggering 349 chimney fires in Shropshire homes – most of them avoidable, he added.

Since Christmas, Shropshire firefighters have been called to chimney related fires in Hodnet, Shrewsbury (4), Telford (4), Shifnal, Harmer Hill, Minsterley, Market Drayton (2), Oswestry (3), Prees, Bishops Castle (4), Clun, Craven Arms and Cleobury Mortimer (4).

Fire crews removed brickwork from the chimney breast in the loft space at a severe fire at Market Drayton and used thermal imaging equipment to check if fire had spread in many other incidents.

In the UK, the trend is also up with 32,000 chimney fires in 2010, reported the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. Two Shropshire chimney sweeps in Whitchurch and Market Drayton are registered on their website at

Fires in chimneys can reach temperatures of 1,100 Celsius.

29th January, 2013