Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) is issuing two warnings about fire safety during the run-up to Christmas.
Residents are being urged to ensure their chimneys are well maintained, as the service sees an increasing number of chimney fires.
In the 2020/21 financial year, NFRS was called to 59 chimney fires, which was slightly down on the previous year’s total of 68.
But with more than three months left in the financial year, the service is keen not to pass last year’s target, and currently in 2021/22 they have been called to 44 – but a growing number have been in recent weeks.
Tina Collett, prevention team leader, said: “With the current Covid guidelines meaning more of us will be staying at home, and with the weather also getting colder, it can be a great time to utilise our fireplaces.
“But we also lead busy lives and you may not have had the chance to organise a professional chimney sweep.
“We would urge people to ensure that their chimneys have been well swept and are well maintained before using them regularly.
“Chimney fires can often end up becoming devastating house fires and ignoring any fire prevention efforts just before Christmas is not worth the risk.”
According to the fire service, chimneys should be cleaned four times a year if you are using wood, twice a year if you are using coal, and at least once a year if you are using smokeless fuels, oil or gas.
Here are some top tips for avoiding a chimney fire:
-Keep your chimney and flue clean and well maintained
-Ensure any fire is extinguished properly before leaving or going to bed
-Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks
-Install smoke alarms on every level of your house and test them regularly
-If you have a chimney fire, remember the following:
-Your first option should be to ring 999, then get out and stay out
-If it is safe for you to do so, shut all air vents and flue dampers to reduce oxygen supply
-Move flammable materials such as furniture away from the fireplace
The second warning relates to smoke alarms after the service was called to an incident in Wellingborough on Sunday (December 19) where a tumble dryer caught fire while occupants slept.
The occupants were alerted to the fire when the smoke alarm sounded, and they managed to vacate their home before the crews arrived.
Crews are now reminding residents that in the event of a fire a smoke alarm can save lives and are urging people to fit a smoke alarm on each floor of their home and test it weekly to give an early warning that a fire is breaking out.
Having a fire alarm is one of the safety messages that applies all year round, but over the Christmas period NFRS is asking residents to be extra vigilant whilst enjoying the festivities.
Tina Collett added: “Domestic fires can start in seconds and it’s really important that fire safety remains a priority over the holiday period.
“We are appealing to everyone in Northamptonshire to recognise the hazards in their homes and to take steps to keep themselves and their loved ones safe so that we do not have to visit over Christmas.”
Christmas related hazards such as lights, Christmas trees, candles and decorations all bring with them their own risks, but these can be minimised.
Safety guidelines at Christmas:
-Turn tree lights off at night or when you leave the house
-Consider where you put candles and never leave them burning if you are not in the room
-Use LED candles rather than real ones
-Keep decorations away from heat sources and fires
-Do not overload electrical plugs