Fire safety experts are urging householders to have their chimneys swept before the onset of colder weather tempts them to light fires.
Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service says it is launching its annual chimney fire safety campaign earlier than usual in a bid to persuade people to have their chimneys swept before most feel the need to light a fire.
In the last two years Shropshire firefighters have been called to 350 chimney fires and in the majority of cases un-swept chimneys have been the cause or major contributing factor.
"As the colder weather sets in people naturally want to light their open fire or log burner but that can go horribly wrong if a chimney has not been swept. In might have been months since a fire was lit and in that time soot and wood sap deposits and bird nest debris can build up to create a very dangerous fire hazard," said Shropshire FRS's Prevention Team Group Manager, Guy Williams.
“At best a chimney fire will often leave a terrible mess and the smell of smoke can linger for weeks. At worst a chimney fire can lead to a serious house fire if flames spread through the roof space and if this happens at night when everyone is asleep, the results could be fatal,” he warned.
The fire service says that the best way to prevent a chimney fire is to have a chimney swept regularly but there are other things that householders should bear in mind.
· Don't burn paper, plastic or other rubbish
· Burn only dry, seasoned wood
· Never use petrol or paraffin to light a fire
· Make sure your fire is out before you go to bed
· Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors fitted
· Check on elderly neighbours
"If people follow these simple guidelines they can stay warm and safe this winter," Guy Williams added.