As a chimney sweep, I meet many people who haven’t had their chimney swept for over a year. In fact, I’d say that’s the vast majority.
But some statistics I obtained this week may hopefully jolt those ‘lapsed’ stove and fireplace users into action.
Because I can reveal that in the past 10 years, there have been at least 430 chimney figures across Greater Manchester.
Wigan is ranked the worst place in Greater Manchester with 76 chimney fires in the past decade – 13 of which took place last year alone.
Both Stockport and Oldham were in joint second place, with 58 incidents each in the past decade. Salford had the fewest at just 26.
The full details were:
1st – Wigan (76)
2nd – Stockport and Oldham (58 each)
3rd – Tameside (48)
4th – Bolton (38)
5th – Trafford (34)
6th – Rochdale (32)
7th – Manchester and Bury (30 each)
8th – Salford (26)
While the 430 figure – released by Greater Manchester Fire & Rescue Service after I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request – is shocking, it only tells a partial story.
I’ve been to properties which have had a chimney fire and either the customer hasn’t realised, or they saw sparks coming out of their chimney but didn’t call the fire brigade.
So the real figure could actually be closer to 1,000.
The truth is that chimney fires are entirely avoidable and it’s mostly down to a lack of sweeping.
Despite the resurgence in ‘real’ fires over the past 10 years, some people mistakenly believe they don’t need to have their chimney swept – especially flue liners – and that chimney sweeps are a thing of the past. These statistics demonstrate the exact opposite.
When I sweep a chimney, I am not only making the flue safer, but the process also gives me some insights into the burning habits of the customer. Fuels which are either inappropriate for the fireplace, or burnt in the wrong way, can also cause a chimney fire.
I always make a point of educating a customer on correct fuel choice and burning. But if they’re not getting that advice, and they’re not getting their chimney cleaned, then they are putting themselves, their home and even their neighbours at serious risk.
Chimney fires can reach up to 2,100F, meaning it will at best render your chimney unusable and leave you with an expensive repair bill.
Every live flue should be swept a minimum of once a year by a professional, registered chimney sweep, regardless of how often it is used.
Hopefully these statistics will be a wake up call to people. Having your chimney swept is a small price to pay to help keep your property and family as safe as possible. And it stops you from potentially invalidating your home insurance.
Most chimney fires tend to occur at this time of year, so the time to act is now.
Don’t become a chimney fire statistic – get it swept.