Chimneys and open fires

Whether it's a chimney or an open fire it's important to keep it clean and use it safely to prevent fires or other accidents.



Most chimney fires are preventable, and there are lots of things you can do to stay safe.

Chimneys that aren’t swept regularly will have soot deposits that may fall back down the chimney, setting fire to carpets and furniture. Clean chimneys are the safest ones. They should be swept regularly to avoid the build-up of soot, as well as debris and obstructions such as birds’ nests, according to the fuel:

  • smokeless/oil/gas – at least once a year
  • bituminous coal – at least twice a year
  • wood – quarterly when in use

Don’t overload the fire with fuel and avoid burning inappropriate waste, like food, green timber, plastic and MDF. Flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin should never be used to light a fire.

Spark guards or fireguards can prevent sparks or embers from igniting carpets or furniture. Always use a fireguard in front of the fire if there are children in the property and never dry anything on your fireguard.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a highly poisonous gas which can build up in a home where open fires, solid fuel-burning or gas appliances are used. This can be either due to faults, leaks, improper use or due to inadequate ventilation, for example, a blocked flue.

You should always have carbon monoxide detectors in rooms with open fires, and solid fuel-burning or gas appliances.

You can buy detectors and alarms which measure the CO at home and warn you if it’s too high. You can also get portable, battery-powered ones to use if you go camping, caravanning and travelling.

Always buy CO alarms from a reputable store or your energy provider. The detector should be marked EN50291 and have the British Standards Kitemark or another European approval organisation’s mark on it.

Have a look at Gas Safe Register and Gas Safe Charity websites for more.