Victorian fire services are recommending homeowners across the state prioritise cleaning their chimneys this winter to help prevent a fire occurring.
A chimney fire in a house in Raglan, just outside Beaufort, late last month is a timely reminder of the importance of cleaning your chimney flue after a free-standing wood heater went up in flames.
Elmhurst Fire Brigade firefighter Hamish Keith witnessed the impacts first-hand of the flue that was 95 percent blocked by soot.
“Because of the design of the heater and the way it was burning, there was a significant build-up of black tar, which evidently caused the blockage and the fire to ignite,” Hamish said.
“It looked like cancer inside an artery. From the top to bottom of this five-metre-high flue, you couldn’t see a torch light.
“Luckily, the family had working smoke alarms that alerted them to the fire, as smoke filled 60 percent of their house due to the chimney being unable to exhaust it.”
CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said the recent Raglan fire is a strong reminder to residents to have their chimneys professionally cleaned each year.
“This is just one of the damaging 48 chimney fires CFA have responded to this year,” CO Heffernan said.
“As you warm your home this season, simply use a torch to regularly check for soot build-up or obstructions to reduce the risk of a fire starting from your fireplace or wood heater.
“Our latest statistics show us most fatal fires start in sleeping and living areas, so for your family’s best protection, smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, living and hallway area.”
FRV Commissioner Gavin Freeman AFSM said maintaining your working fireplace is essential for home safety.
“Those of us with a fireplace at home are enjoying them a lot at this time of year. Proper maintenance ensures they don’t pose a risk to your family home,” Commissioner Freeman said.
“Always use a fire screen in front of an open fire and keep wood, clothes and other combustibles at least one metre from fire.
“Extinguish your fire before going to bed or leaving the house, and check that embers are cold before disposing of them.”
Victorians are reminded that long-life battery or interconnected smoke alarms located in all bedrooms, hallways and living areas of the home can save lives for as little as $20.
Chimney fire safety tips:
- Chimneys and flues should be cleaned annually.
- Over time there could be a build-up of creosote, a black tar-like residue, which is highly flammable and could clog up chimneys.
- Creosote is not only caused by general use, it can also build up quicker if you are using incorrect fuels, such as green wood or treated timbers.
- To reduce the risk of a fire starting from your fireplace or wood heater, you should:
- Use a torch to check for creosote build-up or obstructions.
- Have your chimney professionally cleaned annually.
- Only burn dry, clean wood.
- Extinguish your fire before going to bed or leaving the house.