Homeowners are being warned that they may have to sweep their chimneys twice a year to prevent a house fire.
The latest figures from insurance company NFU Mutual show that over the past three years, 44 per cent of chimney fire claims were made between January and March, with another spate around Easter.
Ross Garner, high value home insurance specialist, said: “As the number of fires being lit over a prolonged period increases so too does the risk of chimney fires. The rise in fires from January to March highlights that not only should a flue or chimney be swept before the first fire of the season, but if an open fire or wood burning stove is frequently used then it may need to be swept again during the colder months.
“Fire can devastate lives and properties so it’s important people protect themselves through the regular inspection and cleaning of chimneys and flues.”
Over the last three years, NFU Mutual has paid out more than £6 million in chimney fire claims.
The insurer has warned that wood burning or multi fuel stoves, which reach high temperatures, can increase the risk of fire as they send more live sparks and embers out of the chimney. Homeowners should also ensure that they only burn seasoned hardwood.
While thatched homes are no more likely to suffer a fire than homes with a conventional roof, if a thatched roof does ignite the fire is very difficult to control and the results can be devastating.
The company’s checklist to avoid a chimney fire is:-
• Chimneys should be routinely checked or surveyed to ensure that they are structurally sound, well-maintained and able to cope with the demands of modern heating appliances;
• A chimney should be swept by a professional chimney sweep at least twice a year if it is in use frequently or all year round.
• Chimney linings should also be regularly inspected, especially when the main fuel is wood, as tar deposits are highly combustible and corrosive. A qualified chimney sweep should be able to identify potential problems at an early stage.
• Only burn seasoned hardwood.
• Speak to your local fire safety officer for further advice about fire prevention.
• Fit a bird guard to deter birds from building nests in your chimney.
• Check the electrical system throughout your home.