Easter chimney fires spark warning

As temperatures drop after last weekend's hot weather, insurer NFU Mutual is warning homeowners to ensure their chimney is clear this Easter to prevent a house fire.

Latest figures from NFU Mutual show that over the past three years, 44% of chimney fire claims were made between February and April, with spates around Easter.

Rebecca Davidson, Home Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Although we may associate Christmas as a time to gather round the fire with family, the recent drop in temperature means that many people will be lighting a fire over the Easter break.

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“The rise in fires reported to us from February to April 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.

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 over £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, particularly with thatched properties, as they send more live sparks and embers out of the chimney. Homeowners should also ensure that they only burn seasoned hardwood.

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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.

NFU Mutual has provided a checklist to help keep your chimney in check:

• 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;

• Your chimney should be swept by a professional chimney sweep at least twice a year if it is in use frequently or all year round.

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• Your chimney lining (if you have one) 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.