NFU Mutual’s own statistics show most chimney fire claims were made in January (20 per cent) and March (19 per cent), which, it said, highlighted that not only should a flue or chimney be swept before the first fire of the season is lit, but if an open fire or wood burning stove is frequently used then it should be swept again during the winter period.
Chloe Drinkwater, high value home specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Our Assets to Ashes campaign is designed to remind people how quickly fire can devastate lives. Your home and possessions are precious so it is important to take a few extra precautions before lighting the first fire of the season.
“Many homeowners do not appreciate the additional cost of re-building a property, particularly if it is thatched, so it is important that people check that their buildings and contents are properly insured should a fire occur.”
Fires in thatched homes are very difficult to control and the results can be devastating with buildings being partially or totally destroyed. NFU Mutual paid out £2.6 million in thatch fire claims in 2014.
Chimney Fire Safety Week, which runs from 7th to 14th September, is the idea of the Chief Fire Officers’ Association.
Spokesman Mark Abram said: “There are around 7,000 chimney fires every year in the UK and most of these are entirely preventable.”
The advice from Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service is to sweep chimneys of smokeless coal fires at least once a year, wood fires up to four times a year, bituminous coal fires twice a year, oil and gas fires once a year.
Moreno Francioso, community fire prevention manager, said: “With the colder, winter months looming, people will begin to start using open fires and their chimneys again.
“In order to keep you and your family safe from fire, you need to take necessary steps such as ensuring your chimney is swept regularly, and I would also urge all householders to have a working smoke alarm in their home.”
Warwickshire County Council’s cabinet holder for community safety, Cllr John Horner, said: “Chimney fires are almost always avoidable.
“Simple steps such as sweeping them to clear obstructions, using decent quality fuel and making sure they are extinguished at night will all go a long way to mitigating the danger posed.”
Cllr Philp Johnson, chairman of the council’s communities overview and scrutiny committee, added: “All chimneys and flue-ways should be cleaned and checked during the summer months to ensure they’re free from debris and in full working order before the heating season.
“A blocked or defective chimney can cause both chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisonings so it’s very important to employ a professional qualified chimney sweep.”