The Fire and Rescue Service is asking for people not to be complacent to think about their safety if they have a coal or wood burning fire in their home. County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s Protection and Prevention Manager Steve Chicken explained, “We are often reminded that gas and electric appliances should be regularly serviced and well maintained for them to remain safe but we don’t hear so much about open fires and wood burners. It is equally, if not more important that these are looked after but people often forget how dangerous they can be. We have had two serious incidents in the last few weeks where people have had to escape from their homes. In one incident a fireguard was not used which allowed a burning ember to fall from the fire setting the room alight and in the other was fuel being stored against a wood burner. Thankfully in both cases the occupants were alerted by their smoke alarms - at one incident they were able to escape the fire themselves but at the other incident fire crews had to rescue two adults from a first floor bedroom window. Clearly if it hadn’t been for the alarms we could have been dealing with tragedies rather than near misses.”
• If you have an open fire always use a fire guard when it is in use. You run the risk of an ember starting a fire if you do not. Remember that a child guard will not stop embers escaping from the fire.
• Do not place combustible material too near the fire - this includes furniture, clothing and fuel.
• Chimneys should be swept at least twice a year when burning wood or bituminous house coal and at least once a year when burning smokeless fuels. The best times to have your chimney swept are just before the start of the heating season and after any prolonged period of shut-down. If sweeping twice, the second time should be after the peak of the main heating season.
• Only use the type of fuel recommended for your appliance. If you don’t it may be unsafe as well as inefficient.
Steve continued, “It is a false economy and potentially dangerous to try and save money by not following recommended servicing guidelines for any heating appliance. In case an accident does happen we strongly advise everyone to fit and maintain smoke alarms in their homes, they could save your life as they have done for countless others.”
For a free Home Fire Safety Check including the fitting of free smoke alarms if required, call 0191 3324222. For more information about biomass and solid fuel appliances, fuel and professional chimney sweeps go to www.hetas.co.uk
Steve added, “We appeal to everyone reading this article to pass the information on to relatives, friends and neighbours. You could save their lives - If You Care, SHARE!”