Safety: Preventing chimney fires and information about carbon monoxide
What are the dangers of carbon monoxide?
High levels of carbon monoxide in your blood can kill you. Most people know to avoid over-exposure to this gas. It is less-known that even low exposure levels can seriously harm you.
Red blood cells transport oxygen in the body. This action is needed because the chemical bonds between oxygen and haemoglobin are weak, allowing red cells to drop the oxygen easily where it is needed. Carbon monoxide forms a more permanent bond with haemoglobin which is hard to break, effectively preventing the blood transporting oxygen to the body tissues.
Side effects from this low-level exposure include permanent organ and brain damage. Infants, the elderly and those with health conditions such as anaemia or heart disease are at increased risk.
Symptoms of low-level carbon monoxide poisoning are easily mistaken for the common cold, flu or simply exhaustion. That means proper diagnosis can be delayed. If in doubt at all, see your doctor for proper medical advice if you have persistent, flu-like symptoms; chronic fatigue or general depression.
REMEMBER - Blocked chimneys and blocked chimney liners are very dangerous. It is essential that your fireplace or wood appliances are swept with the correctly-sized chimney brushes to remove soot and tar. Fireplaces and wood stoves that are maintained, cleaned and inspected frequently will last for many years and will remain safe. If you keep your chimney regularly maintained, there is little to worry about.
Help prevent chimney fires
This is an alarming statistic – 9,000 chimney fires wrecked homes and the lives of homeowners across the UK in 2008. Don’t become a stat! Make sure you get your chimney swept, and the appliance serviced and maintained each year.
Chimney fires can normally burn explosively, noisily and dramatically enough to be detected by neighbours or passers-by. Flames or dense smoke may shoot from the top of the chimney. Homeowners report being startled by a low rumbling sound that reminds them of a train or low-flying aeroplane.
However, other chimney fires are less easy to detect – so be aware! Slow burning chimney fires don’t get enough air or fuel to be dramatic. Yet the temperatures they reach are very high and these fires can damage the chimney structure and nearby combustible parts of the house.
If you think that you chimney is on fire call the fire service immediately on 999 (UK). Cut off air supply to the chimney, if possible. Also, make sure everyone in your building area is aware of the hazard.
You will definitely reduce the risk of chimney fires IF your chimneys are regularly maintained.
Clean chimneys are safer chimneys!