How to Prevent a Chimney Fire

December is BUSY! Not only for us chimney sweeps but for installers and presumably Katie Sweepsuppliers too.

For us Sweeps lots of customers use Christmas as a non-negotiable deadline that cannot be passed! ‘’IT MUST BE SWEPT BEFORE THE 25TH OF DECEMBER.’’

We do our very best to accommodate all our sweep enquiries but sadly some can not and will not now hang on until the new year for their chimney sweeping appointment.

This is completely understandable as after all the warmth and glow of a real Fire is seen as one of the key parts to everyone’s perfect Christmas, with people picturing themselves within a scene from a Dickins novel, all huddled around the fireside making merriment.
With Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, yule logs, stockings hanging from the mantelpiece, and not to mention that the chimney is Father Christmas’s main entrance and exit from the family home… So of course, everyone would see the importance of having their chimney swept before Christmas… not after. 

how to prevent a chimney fireOne sure way to ruin that idyllic Christmas scene is a Chimney Fire. Being joined by the fire brigade for Christmas lunch is not what everyone plans, nor is having a house full of smoke and poisonous gasses from a blocked flue. That would certainly put a dampener on the big day.

This very Chimney Fire scenario did once happen to a now regular customer of mine. In a local picturesque village one Christmas morning many years ago, a nice lady and her family had there perfect day all set out, all was planned to perfection with trimmings to match, with the turkey in the oven and all 3 fires lit. Perfect!

As is tradition for some they decided to pop to the local Pub a few doors down for a quick celebratory drink before lunch. On the way out of the door the lady of the house happened to notice some set pooled wax on the fire hearth from where the candles had spilt over the evening before. She picked the wax off the hearth and threw it straight on to the open fire as they all merrily rushed out of the door. This was a terrible idea!

The wax flared, and flames rose up in to the chimney and set all the soot within the chimney on fire! The first the family knew of this was a neighbour rushing in to the pub to find them all and inform them that the chimney was very visibly on fire!... the announcement was shortly followed by the fire brigade.

Not anyone’s idea of a perfect Christmas day celebration. The lady in question now has the chimneys swept regularly… and no longer burns her candle wax.

With the ‘must be swept by Christmas’ deadline looming I from time to time feel like I am playing the role of ‘The Chimney Sweep Grinch’.
With so many dangerous DIY installs out there I have a duty of care to my customers and must inform them if their appliance is not safe. In such situations a warning notice is issued, and my customers are informed the appliance must not be used until remedial work is carried out. I spend a great deal of time explaining all the information and making sure the customers fully understand what the issues are and why it is dangerous.

Regardless, this still goes down like a led balloon!  Having the fire condemned only a few weeks before Christmas was not part of the perfect Christmas plan… especially when I know all the local reputable installers are all fully booked up until January and February 2018 (I don’t mention that bit).

how to prevent a chimney fire 3At this point, especially when attaching the ‘Danger, Do Not Use’ label on to the appliance, I quickly become unpopular. Yet Looking on the bright side I have potentially saved their home and even their lives … ‘’you’re welcome, Happy Christmas’’ .

This year there are lots of good campaigns from fire departments circulating on social media urging people to have their chimneys swept this Christmas, this is really good at highlighting to the public the importance of chimney sweeping in the prevention of chimney fires.
Unfortunately for us it is not massively helpful as we have been fully booked for the last 3 months. Its official the whole world wants us to just pop by next Tuesday to sweep their chimney, people are usually quite shocked when we let them know our availability.

Thank goodness, we have Sarah our supper sweep receptionist to deal with the masses and break the news that it will be mid-January at the very soonest. Thankfully we still have lots of people opting to book a 2018 appointment.  We are certainly worth waiting for.

Back to Christmas Hazards. One of my favourite very dangerous traditions is when people decide it is a brilliant idea to send their Children’s Letters to Father Christmas UP the chimney! I know! In theory this is such a lovely custom that is steeped in history and romance. Alas as professionals we are all too aware of the dangers this tradition poses.
Consequently, it can easily result in blocked flues and chimney fires, and if that happens Father Christmas will never get his letter!

Definitely not advisable and I believe in this modern age Farther Christmas now also receives emails.Wishing everyone a most wonderful Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year … With chance of a well earnt rest in between.


Best Wishes, Katie Sweep x

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