Avoiding a Chimney Fire at Christmas

What and what not to burn at Christmas – avoiding a chimney fire!Christmas Fireplace

OK, so Christmas is nearly here.  Soon it will be time to close down for midwinter and put your feet up in front of the fire.  So, in the interest of making good and sure that your Christmas will be as safe and sound as possible, here’s a couple of tips and hints to ensure that it is as free from problems as possible.

Have you had your chimney swept?

First and foremost, is your chimney ready for Christmas?  Is it clean and safe?  Not such a silly question.  If you haven’t had the chimney swept yet, then get it done as soon as possible as the Fire and Rescue Service do recommend you get it swept at least once a year.  The last thing you want is a Christmas Eve chimney fire with all the sweeps gone home for their Christmas break.  Do make sure that you get a certified chimney sweep.  He will issue you a certificate, and be sure and keep it with your insurance documents.

How are you storing your fuel?

So there you go.  Your chimney is spick and span, your fuel is properly stored (see our article on the subject) and you are good to go for Christmas.  What else is there?  Well, where will you be putting the wood when you bring it in?  It makes sense to have a wood basket in the living room, but beware of putting wood too near to the fire.  It may sound silly, but I have seen the consequences.  On more than one occasion, someone has left a log on the hearth near to the fire, and it has started to smoulder.  Usually, it’s a nuisance, it fills the room with smoke, but it can be so much worse.  One house I went to, the householder had left a log on the hearth, it had started to smoulder, and as it burnt, it fell away from the fire and rolled onto the carpet.  The resulting fire had destroyed the room.  There wasn’t a fire as such, but the smouldering carpet has produced oily smoke that had filled the room to such an extent that the whole room had to be re-plastered.  The furniture was a write off.

The really dangerous way to dry wood is to pile it up against the wood burner.  That wood gets HOT, and if it gets hot enough (Farenheit 451 for Ray Bradbury fans, which is about 210 Centigrade.) it can smoulder.  Ok, there is little danger of a house fire in this scenario, but what will happen is that the room, and the house if the door is open, will fill with smoke and toxic fumes.  If you are asleep and don’t wake up, it could be fatal.

If the wood container is too close, and the fireplace spits sparks, remember that at the bottom of the container there will be dry sawdust etc that is easily ignited.  If a spark gets in there, it could be nasty.

OK, so there are a lot of people that do it, and it isn’t likely that it will be you.  Point is, it WILL BE SOMEONE, and if this article means it won’t be you, I shall consider it well worth writing.

Don’t burn your decorations!

Finally, remember that 12th night is traditionally chimney fire night.  That’s when the decorations come down, and some bright spark throws the holly wreath on the fire.  Evergreens contain a lot of waxes etc to protect them, and it has been in a heated house for a couple of weeks.  It will be bone dry, and will blaze up as though you threw a small cup of petrol on the fire.  That is an excellent way of starting a chimney fire off, so don’t do it.  Take those decorations and cut them up into small pieces, and then you can use a handful to help to light the fire next time.  (Talking of fire lighting, don’t forget to read our article here)

So, to recap.

  1. Make sure that you get your chimney swept before Christmas.  Don’t put it off as it is the busy season for sweeps.
  2. Get a certified chimney sweep, and put the certificate in a safe place.
  3. Keep your fuel dry, but don’t let it get too hot.  Really, don’t pile it up against the wood burner.
  4. Have a good Christmas.
  5. Avoid burning Christmas wrapping paper and decorations after Christmas


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Registered in the UK # 7725 203
VAT # 218 3459 04