FIREFIGHTERS have been called to more than 1,600 chimney fires in the last 10 years in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, figures reveal.

And as autumn approaches, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is asking homeowners as part of Chimney Fire Safety Week 2020 to get their chimneys swept by an approved sweep in a bid to keep the numbers down.

Chimney Fire Safety Week aims to reduce chimney fires by raising awareness of safe chimney use, including the importance of ensuring that chimneys are swept regularly, kept clean and appropriate quality fuel is used.

During the last ten years HWFRS dealt with 1,671 chimney fires in the area, an average of 167 per year and fewer than 14 per month.

While the positive news is that this is a downward trend, with 98 chimney fires recorded in 2019-20 compared with 112 in 2018-19, there is still plenty of work to do to reduce the numbers still further, the service said.

Station Commander Steve Andrews, of the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service Community Risk department, said: “Sweeping your chimney up to twice a year and using a quality assured fuel is the key to prevention. Not only does this remove soot and tar deposits, but also gives sweeps the opportunity to check for any problems with the chimney or liner.

“A typical sweep only takes about 90 minutes and doesn’t make a mess. Professional chimney sweeps use modern methods and tools such as power-sweeping, CCTV and vacuums to ensure minimal disturbance for the homeowner. Customers don’t need to move all of their furniture out of the room.”

HWFRS recommend you have your chimney swept regularly by a Certified Sweep, depending on what fuel you burn, before the colder months set in and you begin to use your fire again, with chimneys that have been lined still requiring regular sweeping

Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks, avoid ‘slumbering’ an appliance unless it has been tested as safe to do so, and use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from open fires.

They also recommend ensuring the fire is extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house, making a fire plan to ensure your family escape in a fire, and having one smoke alarm on every level of your home and testing them weekly

Chimneys should be swept on different schedules depending on fuel. For smokeless fuels, at least once a year, for bituminous coal, at least twice a year, quarterly for wood, and once a year for oil and gas.

For more information on maintaining your chimney and how you can help with fire prevention, click here.