CFA urges residents to check chimneys as winter nears

CFA insist all Yarra Ranges residents should check and clean their fireplaces before use this winter. Picture: ON FILE

As the temperature drops and Yarra Ranges residents are lighting up a fire to keep warm, CFA is urging people to check their fireplaces, chimneys, fireboxes and flues before use.

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 – that could clog chimneys.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Residents are advised to clean their fireplaces annually and have gas heaters inspected and serviced by a qualified technician every two years to avoid a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning while ensuring a guard or fireproof screen is always fitted to prevent sparks and wood from falling out of the fireplace and causing a fire or burn injury.

Mr Heffernan said while winter is the perfect time to curl up in front of a warm fire, chimney fires can quickly turn into house fires and urges everyone to extinguish fires before going to bed or leaving the house.

“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 and 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.”

The CFA always advises to never dry clothes or have flammable items such as curtains close to a heater or open fire making sure they are positioned at least one metre away and constantly monitored to reduce risk of a fire. Children and pets also must be supervised near all types of heating, and encourage children to maintain a safe distance.