Firefighters are encouraging people to plan ahead while the weather is fine by arranging to have their chimneys swept.
The reminder coincides with this year’s Chimney Fire Safety Week, which starts tomorrow (Monday 25 July).
Chris Bailey, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “Without proper maintenance, a chimney can become dangerous because of the deposits that build up when you burn coal or wood.
“It’s best to check that it’s shipshape when it’s not in use - and peak season for the country’s professional sweeps is drawing near.”
The latest statistics show that the number of chimney fires in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes is rising after starting to fall in the first few years of the century.
The annual average for the past three years is about 150 (Buckinghamshire 125, Milton Keynes 25), compared with just under 100 (Buckinghamshire 86, Milton Keynes 12) for the previous three-year period.
Chris offered the following advice to help people avoid chimney fires:
Have your chimney swept at least once a year – and at up to four times a year if you regularly burn wood. If you have recently opened up and started to use a fireplace, make sure it is inspected by a qualified person. When burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only. Never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper.
Build smaller, hotter fires that burn more completely and produce less smoke. Extinguish the fire before going to bed or leaving the house. Do not overload the grate or appliance. Use a fire or spark guard to prevent accidental fires.
Inspect your chimney breast, particularly in the roof space. Make sure that it is sound and that the sparks or fumes cannot escape through cracks or broken bricks.
Ensure wood burners are installed and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Make sure the appliance receives enough air to allow the fuel to burn properly. Consider having a carbon monoxide detector fitted
If you would like Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service to carry out a free safety check in your home, fitting free smoke alarms where needed, ring 01296 744477, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.bucksfire.gov.uk/bucksfire/free