Firefighters issue chimney warning as temperatures drop

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WITH darker, colder nights drawing in, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has issued a warning about chimneys.

Open fires and wood burning stoves can become a serious safety hazard if simple precautions are not followed.

West Sussex firefighters were called to extinguish more than 214 chimney fires last year (April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011) with some properties left uninhabitable as a result.

Community fire safety officer, Jackie Boyle, said: “The weather has turned considerably colder and we know people are turning to open fires.

“The best piece of advice we can give to anyone planning to light a fire is to make sure they get their chimney checked and swept.

“If you can, inspect your chimney breast, particularly in the roof space. Make sure that it is sound and that the sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks. Of course, you should also make sure you have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home - early detection saves lives.”

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service offers the following advice:

- Have your chimney swept at least once a year, twice a year if burning wood.

- When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only.

- Build smaller, hotter fires that burn completely and produce less smoke.

- Never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper.

- Never use petrol or paraffin to light your fire.

- Do not overload the grate or appliance.JPWH

- Use a fire or spark guard to prevent accidental fires.

- Ensure the fire is fully extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house.

- Make sure wood burners and other fire appliances are installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

To find your local chimney sweep, contact the National Association of Chimney Sweeps on freephone 0800 833464 or www.nacs.org.uk

Fire safety advice is free from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Community Safety Team on 01243 642878 or www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire.