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Chimney check is crucial for winter safety

Be prepared: A CFA spokesperson says residents should conduct a chimney check in preparation for winter. Photo by Rodney Braithwaite

The CFA is urging residents to keep themselves safe by checking and maintaining their fireplaces, chimneys, fireboxes and flues.

Firefighters respond to numerous chimney fires every year that start from fireplaces and wood heaters.

In 2021, CFA firefighters responded to 130 chimney fires, almost half of which occurred during the winter months.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan urged Victorian households to have chimneys professionally cleaned annually to avoid the build-up of creosote – a highly flammable black tar-like residue – which can clog chimneys.

“Winter is the perfect time to curl up in front of a warm fire, but chimney fires can quickly turn into house fires,” Mr Heffernan said.

“Spending a few minutes now to check your chimney could be one of the most important fire safety actions you take this season, and you can easily check for creosote build-up or obstructions by simply using a torch before lighting a fire.

“Creosote is caused by general use but can also build up faster if you are using incorrect fuels such as green wood or treated timbers, so make sure you only burn dry, clean wood to reduce the risk of fire starting from a fireplace or wood heater.

“We also urge everyone to always extinguish their fire before going to bed or leaving the house.”

Mr Heffernan said it was also important to ensure gas heaters were being used safely and correctly, and urged Victorians to have their gas heaters inspected and serviced by a qualified technician every two years to avoid a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The colder months are some of the riskiest times of the year for fires in the home, and most of these fires can be prevented,” he said.

“Taking a few moments to check your heaters and fireplaces before winter sets in could mean the difference between life and death for your family.

“It’s important to remember that no matter the season, having interconnected smoke alarms in all bedrooms and living areas can provide vital seconds to allow you and your family to escape in case of a fire,” he said.

The CFA has advised people to have their chimneys cleaned annually and their gas heaters inspected and serviced every two years, use a secure guard or fireproof screen to prevent sparks and wood from falling out of the fireplace and causing a fire or burn injury and always extinguish any open flames, and turn off heaters before going to bed or leaving the house.

The CFA has also indicated that people should never dry clothes or have flammable items such as curtains close to a heater or open fire – make sure they are positioned at least one metre away and constantly monitored to reduce the risk of fire.