Safety Advice for Chimneys


Every year Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service attend hundreds of chimney fires. You can help us reduce this amount by reading the following safety advice to help you reduce the risk of your chimney catching fire.


Preventing Chimney Fires

Regular cleaning of your chimney or flues will eliminate the build-up of soot and clear obstructions such as bird or animal nests, leaves and debris. You will also reduce emissions into the atmosphere by assisting the complete combustion of fuel. It is not sufficient to use a vacuum cleaner. You should ensure your chimney flue is inspected regularly to prevent fires breaking out.
  • infrequent sweeping and cleaning
  • burning unseasoned wood
  • improper appliance sizing
  • overnight burning or smouldering wood for long periods in wood stoves.
Anybody who suspects their chimney may be on fire should call out the fire service immediately. Look out for excessive smoke, embers falling back into the hearth, sparks shooting from the chimney top, the walls of the chimney breast or adjacent walls becoming very hot to the touch.

Open fires

  • Have your chimney swept before lighting the first fire of winter.
  • Always place a fireguard around the fire.
  • Do not overload the grate or build fires too high.
  • Dispose of ash appropriately.
  • Do not dry or air clothes on a fireguard.
  • Ensure fires are extinguished before you go to bed.
  • Never use petrol or paraffin to light your fire.


Wood-burning stoves

  • The stove or boiler should be installed and regularly serviced by a competent engineer.
  • It is important to use the correct size stove for your room. One that is too large will not get hot enough to burn all the fuel in the wood and un-burnt fuel will pass up the chimney as smoke and cause creosote, which is highly flammable, to form on the inside of the flue or chimney.
  • Ensure the room is well ventilated.
  • If the wood burner has been used slowly (overnight, for instance) this should be followed by a period of faster burning to dry out any creosote and to warm up the chimney again.
  • Don’t use your stove as an incinerator for general rubbish.

Carbon monoxide

Be aware Carbon monoxide (CO) gas can kill. Heating and cooking appliances fuelled by coal, smokeless fuels, wood, oil and gas can cause CO poisoning if they are poorly installed, incorrectly used or if they are not properly and regularly maintained. Early symptoms of CO poisoning include: tiredness, drowsiness, dizziness, chest pains, nausea and flu like symptoms.

You can reduce the risk of CO poisoning by:

  • having appliances installed and properly serviced by competent engineers
  • getting chimneys and flues inspected and swept
  • not overloading a fire and only burning the fuel it is designed for
  • fitting a carbon monoxide detector
  • good ventilation.