Fire chiefs have warned householders to have their chimneys cleaned professionally after it was revealed that fire engine crews attended 332 chimney fires in the Mid Ulster District over the past three years.
According to the figures, which were released this week by the Minister of Health at the Northern Ireland Assembly, rural areas are the worst affected.
Neighbouring Fermanagh and Omagh district had the highest number of chimney fires tackled by fire crews in Northern Ireland at 668 over the past three years, while Belfast District had the lowest at just 96 over the same period.
Local woman Kathleen Hughes was one those people who had a chimney fire in their home during the year. The retired teacher from Keady is sharing her lesson in fire safety and supporting NIFRS in urging householders to get their chimneys swept to protect themselves from fire.
Kathleen recounts how a simple Saturday evening spent beside the fire with a takeaway ended with her standing by helplessly as she watched Firefighters tackle a fire in the chimney breast of her home.
“It had been a cool Saturday evening in May and my son and I had enjoyed a pizza by the warmth of the fire. He headed off out and I tidied up throwing the pizza box on the fire expecting it to burn.
“Immediately the pizza box was sucked up the chimney. I’ll never forget the noise – I can only describe it as a loud ‘whoosh’. Sparks, ambers and smoke started to billow out of the fire. The whooshing noise continued. I knew something was wrong.
“I quickly ran outside and could see sparks coming out of the chimney. That’s when it dawned on me that my chimney was on fire. I frantically dialled 999 and asked for the Fire & Rescue Service and alerted my neighbours in the houses next to me. Moments later I could hear the reassuring sound of sirens in the background and was so thankful to see my local firefighters on hand to take control of the situation.”
Geoff Somerville, Assistant Group Commander, NIFRS went on to say: “The cost of a chimney sweep is very small when compared to dealing with the damage and cost of repair after a chimney fire, not to mention the potential threat to life if the chimney fire were to spread to the rest of the property.
“Please also ensure that you have working smoke alarms in your home and test them once a week.
“If you think you have a chimney fire call 999 immediately and ask for the Fire & Rescue Service.” To find a certified chimney sweep visit the Northern Ireland Association of Chimney Sweeps – www.niacs.co.uk
Read more at: http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/time-for-a-clean-sweep-on-chimney-fire-safety-week-1-7560769