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Preventing chimney fires and info about carbon monoxide

Chimney fires are lethal

Facts about uncontrolled fires in chimneys are alarming. There were 5,507 incidents in Britain in the 2015 to 2016 period (the most recent stats, to date). These chimney fires had a serious effect on the lives of residents and caused havoc in homes across the nation. The tragedy is that chimney fires are easily preventable! Regular chimney maintenance with cleaning = less risk of chimney fires.

The sight of a chimney fire is normally simple to spot – noisy, explosive with thick smoke or flames sparking from the top of the chimney. Sometimes there can be a thundering sound, akin to an aeroplane flying overhead or a train rattling past. Yet other chimney fires are subtle – and that’s even more dangerous. Because nobody knows that the chimney is on fire, Or at least, until it is potentially too late.

This latter scenario happens when the chimney fire is slow-burning due to a lack of regular air flow or fuel. It means the fire is less dramatic. Even so, the temperatures of these subtle chimney fires are high indeed and risk extensive damage to the structure of a home or business premises – to say nothing of risks to combustible sections of a property.
Take no risks. At the first sign of a chimney fire, phone Kent or Sussex fire services on 999 (UK). Keep safe and take no chances. Yet if it is safe – and only ‘if’ – cut off air supply to the chimney. Get everyone out of the building and ensure all people in the area within the property and surrounding environs, are aware of the danger.

Chimney fire risks are definitely less if chimneys are regularly inspected and swept by a professional chimney technician, such as James the Sweep.

Why is carbon monoxide so dangerous?

Carbon monoxide (CO) is lethal – it can kill your children, elderly parents, any other loved ones and yourself. High levels of exposure are deadly but even low levels pose a risk of serious harm. Never underestimate carbon monoxide and always take every safety action to avoid this invisible but lethal gas.

Oxygen is carried around the body by red blood cells. These cells place oxygen easily where needed. Chemical bonds between oxygen and haemoglobin are much weaker than between carbon monoxide and haemoglobin, which is harder to split. Any CO in the body is therefore harmful because it stops blood from taking oxygen to body tissues.

Horrible side effects from low-level exposure to CO include permanent brain and organ damage. Everyone is susceptible to this devastating poisoning but especially youngsters, older folk and those with long term health conditions. Symptoms of CO exposure are similar to the common cold, or flu, or even exhaustion, chronic fatigue or depression – at first glance. Unfortunately, that risks a misdiagnosis but keep seeing your doctor for medical advice if your symptoms persist.

IMPORTANT TIP: It’s simply dangerous to have a blocked chimney flue or liner. Regular cleaning is essential with correctly-sized chimney brushes, to discard soot or tar residue. Wood stoves and open fires also need regular maintenance to keep safe. Regular care equals peace of mind!