People with open fires are being urged to call in the chimney sweeps in the coming weeks to avoid catastrophe this winter.

Chimney fires happen about once a week in the county and are caused by part-burned material building up in the flue and catching fire.

This week is Chimney Fire Safety Week and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service is joining the national campaign to educate people about the dangers and encourage them to get their chimneys cleaned before they use them later this year.

Harborough district manager for the service, Sanjay Bulsara, said: “If you have an open fire in your home, it is vital that you have your chimney swept at least once a year to prevent a build-up of debris which could start a fire.

“In addition to this, the brickwork on the chimney should also be inspected, particularly in the roof space to ensure there are no cracked or broken bricks which embers could escape through.”

While most chimney fires result in small amounts of damage to the area around the fireplace, there are risks of the fire spreading through roof space.

With wood burners becoming more popular, the number of chimney fires nationally has been creeping up year on year since 2006.

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service is urging occupants with an open fire to follow these steps to prevent the likelihood of a serious incident from occurring in their homes.

– Ensure the chimney is swept on a regular basis

– Ensure a fireguard is in front of the fire at all times

– Always extinguish the fire before going to bed

– Avoid burning wood with a high resin content

– Do not overload the fire

– Only use good quality suitable fuels

– Never use petrol or paraffin to light a fire

– Make sure you have a working smoke alarm and check it works regularly

It is recommended that people using coal on their fires get their chimneys cleaned twice a year and people using smokeless solid fuel have them done once a year.

Wood burning fires in constant use should be cleaned four times a year.

In the event of a chimney fire, people are urged to first call 999 and then take any actions they can to put the fire out, such as closing the ventilation holes or throwing water over an open fire.

Then move furniture and rugs away from the fire and put a fireguard in front of the fireplace before making sure the fire service can get easy access to any roof space or attic when they arrive.

Carbon monoxide is another risk from fireplaces.

Mr Bulsara said: “Without proper and regular maintenance, any flue from a fire or stove can cause a dangerous build-up of carbon monoxide gas, which can kill.

“A carbon monoxide detector will help protect you and your family from this risk.”

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