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Residents urged to follow chimney safety advice after open fire causes house fire

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STAFFORDSHIRE Fire and Rescue Service are reminding residents to follow safety advice as part Chimney Safety Week.

This timely reminder comes after a house fire in the Staffordshire Moorlands was caused by a stray ember from an open fire.

Crews were called to reports of a chimney fire in Park Lane, Knypersley, at around 9.05pm yesterday, Thursday September 7. When they arrived they found the ground floor well alight.

The occupant, a 69-year-old man, was out of his home when crews arrived. He suffered minor burns and was taken to Royal Stoke Hospital for treatment, he has since been released.

Throughout the night appliances attended from Biddulph, Sandyford, Hanley, Burslem, Kidsgrove and Newcastle. The home was very crowded with belongings which meant that firefighters had limited space to work in and had difficulty reaching the fire. This meant they quickly used up oxygen through their breathing apparatus and had to work in shifts to tackle the fire. The fire is believed to have started accidentally by materials in front of an open fire catching light.

On Friday appliances from Stoke, Ipstones and Biddulph have attended, taking it in turns to continue to damp down the fire.

As autumn sees evenings drawing in and becoming colder, more homes throughout Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent will be turning up the heat. Residents are urged to take action now to make sure their chimneys, open fires and log burners are as safe as possible during the coming colder months.

Taking some simple steps to ensure that your fireplace doesn’t pose a fire risk could potentially save the lives of you and your family.

Donna Broadhead, Prevent Manager for the Northern Service Delivery Group, said: “The drop in temperature means that people will once again start using log burners and open fires to keep warm.

“This incident is a stark reminder of how easily a fire can start if flammable items are stored near your fireplace. It also shows how quickly a fire can spread. Make sure you always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers.

“The man had a very lucky escape as there were no working smoke alarms in his home, this incident could have so easily ended in tragedy. It is vital to make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home.

“To keep you and your family safe from fire it is absolutely essential that you check that your chimney is in good working order before using it. Chimneys need to be swept on a regular basis by a qualified sweep such as those certified by National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS). A blocked or defective chimney can cause both chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

“Each level of your home should have at least one working smoke alarm and a carbon monoxide alarm, and these should be tested weekly.”

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service would encourage those with log burners or open fires to follow the below safety advice:

  • Make sure the fire is properly out before going to bed or leaving the house
  • Ensure good quality fuel is used
  • Avoid storing fuel next to your fire
  • Be careful when using open fires to keep warm. Make sure you always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers
  • Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks
  • Avoid slumbering an appliance (unless it has been tested as safe to do so). Slumber mode is when an appliance is purposely set at a low or minimum output normally for overnight burning to be revived in the morning without the need for relighting.
  • Chimneys that have been lined still require regular sweeping
  • If you use smokeless fuel, sweep your chimney at least once a year
  • If you use bituminous coal, sweep your chimney at least twice a year
  • If you use wood, sweep your chimney quarterly when in use
  • If you use oil, sweep your chimney once a year
  • If you use gas, have your chimney swept by a Gas Safe registered installer/engineer once a year

For more information on chimney fire safety visit: http://www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk/2333.asp

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