Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Warning over open fire danger

Open fire
Staffordshire Fire Service warns of the risk open fires

The fire service in Staffordshire has warned people about the dangers of open fires following three fatal house blazes in the past eight weeks.

The service has also seen a 27% increase in chimney fires since 2007.

It said it believed the credit crunch and rising fuel costs meant wood-burning stoves and open fires had become increasingly popular.

It also warned that no matter how inviting a real fire might look it could be a safety risk.

George Massey, who has been a chimney sweep for nearly 30 years, said chimneys should be swept twice a year - particularly if wood was being burnt.

Free fireguards

He said: "Logs tar the chimney up. I've looked up some chimneys and it looks as if somebody's been sitting on the top dropping buckets of tar down. If that goes on fire you will know it."

Chimney sweep
Chimneys should be swept twice a year

As the temperatures stay below 0C and more and more people rely on open fires the warning has been reiterated by the fire service.

Ian Sloss, head of risk reduction for the Staffordshire Fire Service, said: "With the current high cost of gas it seems that more and more people are relying on their open fires as a source of heat.

"However, they need to be aware that open fires do present fire risks and so safety needs to be considered.

"They should also take extra care when lighting their fire and a fireguard should be used at all times."

The fire service said it was offering a free home fire risk check to all households and would give away free fireguards where necessary.



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