Urgent! Call this telephone number. They have just had a chimney fire. That was the text from my office manager. So I pulled over and gave the number a call. I spoke to the customer who explained that they had just moved into a house that week and had lit a fire in the downstairs front room last night which resulted in a chimney fire. Could I pop around and have a chat.
As it was a quiet day I was able to get there within and hour. The client then gave me a full briefing on what had happened. To be quite honest I struggled to understand and believe what I was being told. As mentioned above the young couple had that week moved into the house with their two young children. As it happened the two young children had stayed at their grandparent and arrived in the new home that day. It was explained by the client that they had three flues, rear downstairs with a DIY installed stove, and open fire in the front down stairs room and a sealed of fire in the upstairs front bedroom. The night before they had lit a fire in the downstairs front room. An hour or so later they could smell burning upstairs and on investigation found that the front bedroom, directly above the room with the fire in it, was full of smoke. The smoke was coming from behind the boarded off open fire which now had a gas fire installed in front of it. They immediately called the fire service who arrived in minutes and dealt with the fire. The fire service then conducted an inspection of the chimney which revealed that all three flues had been knocked into one large flue in the attic area. Over the years debris had fallen behind the asbestos board in the bedroom. When the fire was lit downstairs some form of ignition took place and set fire to the debris.
When I had a look up the flue of the upstairs bedroom you could see out of both the front two chimney pots. There a vast cavern like opening just above the ceiling. Either the feathers (bricks separating the flues) had been removed deliberately or had fallen down and then been removed. None of the flues had been swept in years and to be quite frank they were all dangerously dirty.
The result is that none of these flues can be used without either being repaired of relined. There were no smoke alarms in the house or Carbon Monoxide alarms in any room where there was a fossil fuel burning appliance. The bedroom where the fire was, i suspect you have guessed already, the children’s bedroom.
So a couple of things fall out of this incident:
1. If you move into a house that has been lived in before and the previous owners can not provide a recent sweeping certificate get the chimney swept and inspected by a qualified and competent chimney sweep before you use it. The Guild of Master Sweeps website has a post code search facility that will put in touch with your nearest sweep.
2. If they are not hard wired in then get some battery operated smoke alarms and and Carbon Monoxide alarms. Every room where there is a fossil/carbon fuel (coal, gas, wood or oil) burning appliance should have a Carbon Monoxide alarm correctly fitted in it. If battery operated then you can take it on holiday with you.
3. Know what to do if you have a chimney fire. If in doubt call a chimney sweep.