Since 2010, government statistics have shown that England experiences more than double the amount of chimney fires during the winter months as it does throughout autumn. With Chimney Fire Safety Week starting today, SOA Safety wants to ensure you are equipped to help landlords and housing managers protect their residents and properties.
Here, we discuss the role of landlords and housing managers with regards to fire safety, the potential fire hazards of chimneys, and best practises to minimise the risk of a chimney fire.
Fire safety for landlords and housing managers
The Housing Act 2004 and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRSFO) outlines fire safety requirements in rented properties. Landlords or housing managers are responsible for ensuring the installation and maintenance of adequate fire safety equipment, as well as a safe escape route from the property.
The RRSFO requires the appointment of a Responsible Person to oversee fire safety in commercial, multi-occupancy and rented properties, which would be the landlord or housing manager.
Before renting out a property, the responsible person should conduct a fire risk assessment, highlighting all potential hazards and taking action to minimise or remove each risk associated with them. This includes ensuring fire safety equipment – such as fire extinguishers, fire blankets and fire alarms – is accessible and in working order, and electrical appliances are serviced by a fully-qualified technician.
In addition to this, the recent Fire Safety Act 2021 calls for reviews to risk assessments and provides further considerations for landlords. To learn more, read our detailed guide to the Fire Safety Act 2021.
What are the fire risks of chimneys?
For properties with working chimneys, there is an added risk of fire, especially during the colder months. Government statistics between 2019 and 2020 demonstrated that there were two main causes of chimney fires in England – accidental and placing articles too close to a chimney.
Chimneys work on the principle that hot air rises above cold. The fuel source sits at the base of the chimney and creates a draught when ignited. The fire sucks in and feeds on the cooler air of the room and expels smoke and hot air up the chimney and safely out of the property.
However, when the air in the chimney cools, the chemicals released from burning firewood and coal condensate and stick to the inner walls of the chimney, forming a sticky substance known as creosote. A highly combustible material, creosote build-up is extremely dangerous if left unchecked. Often, chimney fires can be slow-burning and go undetected, reaching heats of 1000 degrees and spreading to other areas of the property.
How to prevent chimney fires
Landlords and housing managers should ensure the regular inspection and cleaning of any chimneys in their properties. Regular cleaning will reduce the risk of creosote build-up, while the inspection will uncover any structural damage or signs of a previous chimney fire. Residents should also be advised on best practises for operating a chimney safely. These are:
- Ensuring the fire is turned off, or extinguished, a few hours before going to sleep, or leaving the house, and never leave it unattended
- Ensuring the use of a fire guard to protect surrounding items from embers or heat exposure
- Burning dry materials such as dry wood and coal – wet woods increase the build-up of creosote
- Replenishing the fuel source sparingly – overfilling the chimney can result in a large fire which is more difficult to manage
- Ensuring that chimneys are swept regularly by a qualified sweep and that a regular service is carried out on your fireplace
For more information on fire safety for landlords and housing managers, feel free to drop us a line 01229 808320.