Chimney and open fires

Used carefully, open fires can make your home warm and welcoming. Most chimney fires are preventable, and there are lots of things you need do to stay safe.

Chimneys that aren’t swept regularly will have soot deposits which 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
  • bitumous coal – at least twice a year
  • wood – quarterly when in use

Remember to use a Gas Safe-registered engineer on gas appliances. To find a chimney sweep in your area, visit The National Association of Chimney Sweeps or The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps.


More tips to avoid chimney fires

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

Toxic Fumes

when the fire’s lit, look out for cracks in walls, brickwork or mortar joints which may leak and fill rooms or the roof space with smoke ensure the room where the fire is situated is not completely air tight. Good ventilation is vital for a safe chimney; air bricks or vents should not be blocked or covered • blocked chimneys can cause toxic fumes including Carbon Monoxide to come back into the room.

General open fire advice

sparkguards or fireguards can prevent sparks or embers lighting carpets or furniture always use a fireguard in front of the fire if there are children in the property don’t dry anything on your fireguard the heat from a severe chimney fire may cause structural damage to the property the local council’s Building Control team need to approve changes or modifications to fireplaces, flues, hearths or brick work building regulations also apply when installing a new stove, chimney or fire.