WITH the cold snap expected to last over the weekend, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service are reminding homeowners to ensure that their chimneys are suitable for use.

The advice comes after the service responded to 26 chimney fires during the past week, Open fires and wood burning stoves are growing in popularity as they not only warm up a home but create a unique and relaxing ambience within any room. This is all the more reason to ensure they are safe and clean.

Chimneys need to be reguarly swept by a registered chimney sweep to ensure they are dirt-free to allow the free passage of dangerous combustion gasses, Below is a recommended list of sweeping frequencies, which will depend on a number of factors including type of fuel, appliance used, duration of use, moisture content of wood fuel, type of chimney: Smokeless coals at least once a year.

Wood up to four times a year.

Bituminous coal twice a year.

Oil once a year.

Gas once a year.

Also growing in popularity are wood burning stoves which need to be checked regularly to ensure they are safe and clean.

Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service have provided some top tips for safer chimneys: • always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers • make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed or leaving the house • when burning wood, use dry, seasoned woods only • never burn cardboard boxes or waste paper • do not overload the grate • bird nests, cobwebs and other blockages within chimney to be removed • consider having a carbon monoxide detector fitted as an additional safeguard against the build-up of poisonous fumes • have a working smoke alarm.

Smoke Alarms: • regularly check your alarms by pressing the button • once a year – change your battery or consider buying a ten-year alarm which will not require frequent battery changes • once a year – vacuum and wipe the smoke alarm casing to ensure dust isn’t blocking the sensor chamber (for mains wired alarms, switch off first).