Fire service raises alarm over chimney fires

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Watch Manager John Chilton and firefighter Sean Brookes from Northumberland Fire and Rescue.
Watch Manager John Chilton and firefighter Sean Brookes from Northumberland Fire and Rescue.

CHIMNEY fires reported in Tynedale account for almost half of the incidents dealt with by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service across the county over the last 12 months.

Twenty seven of the 60 calls received by fire crews since September 1 last year, came from the district, with a staggering 17 of those occurring in the area served by Hexham Fire Station.

There were another three reports received by both the Prudhoe and Haltwhistle crews, with two each dealt with by Allendale and Bellingham firefighters.

And, with each call requiring two fire engines, which are usually staffed with five officers each, the fire service and county council once again supported the annual Chimney Fire Safety Week, which ran from September 4 to 10.

The national initiative aims to raise awareness of safe chimney fire use and information about how to prevent a fire occurring, highlighting the importance of having chimneys swept regularly and only burning suitable fuel.

"The timing of the week is no accident," said John Chilton, watch manager at Hexham Fire Station.

"As the mornings get darker, the nights draw in and temperature begins to fall, it's this time of year that people with open fires and log burners, that may not have been used for several months, start to fire them up."

He added that it was vitally important to have a chimney swept to ensure it is kept clear of soot, leaves, birds’ nests and other debris, in order to reduce the risk of a fire occurring or the build up of the poisonous gas, carbon monoxide, within the property.

Bellingham's Coun. John Riddle, chairman of Northumberland Fire Authority, added: "Fire safety is of utmost importance and it is imperative to continually raise awareness about how to safely maintain and use fires within the home."

Anyone who suspects they have a fire in their chimney breast is advised to evacuate the property, dial 999 and wait for the fire service.

* Firefighters and the council's public protection teams have also spent this week (Sept 11 to 17) offering businesses safety messages as part of the National Fire Chiefs Council UK Business Safety Week.

Through events across the county, including one which took place at Hexham Fire Station on Tuesday (Sept12), the event aims to make sure businesses and their staff have the information they need to prevent, protect and respond to fire incidents in the workplace.

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