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Fire service urges people to Stay Fire Safe this winter 

Washing drying on electric heaterResidents are being urged to take simple steps to protect themselves from accidental fires and carbon monoxide poisoning as they look to keep warm and cut energy use this winter. 

As temperatures drop heading into the coldest part of the year, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) is highlighting the potential risks of finding alternative, unsafe ways of heating and lighting their homes as the cost of living continues to increase.  

The Service is supporting National Fire Chief Council’s Stay Fire Safe campaign to provide advice to help reduce the fire risks in the home. 

Head of Community Fire Safety, Group Commander Rob Olivier, said "It’s really important that, as we all try to cope with the rise in the cost of living, we don’t put ourselves or our loved ones at risk. We all need to stay warm and well as the weather gets colder, but we don’t want that to be at the expense of our safety.  

"Everybody should make sure they have working smoke alarms, preferably one on each level of the home, and test them regularly. Also, if you have a heating appliance that doesn’t run off electricity, have a carbon monoxide alarm nearby, as it’s the only way to detect this harmful, colourless and odourless gas, which can be fatal.” 

Many people will be utilising chimneys and open fires to heat their homes to help offset the cost of energy.  

Group Commander Olivier added: "While open fires warm up a home and create a cosy atmosphere, it’s really important they are used safely. People should take the necessary steps to look after their chimneys, making sure they’re well maintained and swept regularly. We would advise getting a chimney cleaned and swept prior to lighting it for the first time when the cold weather arrives, as there could be a buildup of debris that’s accumulated over the year. As the cost of living continues to bite, there is the temptation to save money and skip the sweeping, however the debris buildup in the flue can be set alight when heating the home, which could cause a significant fire and be even more costly."

The Service attends around 100 fires a year involving chimneys, most of which could be avoided by following some simple safety tips: 

  • Appoint a skilled and technically competent chimney engineer. To find your nearest local HETAS Approved Chimney Sweep visit:
  • Keep the flue shafts clear and ensure they are well maintained 
  • Only use properly treated wood to build a fire
  • Always use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers
  • Make sure embers are properly put out before you go to bed. 

As part of the campaign, CFRS is encouraging people to complete an online home fire check for themselves and their loved ones. By answering a few simple questions, it will provide specific fire safety advice and tips on how to keep households safe from fire. For those most at risk of fire we can visit the home to provide help and advice. 

To help keep residents fire safe, here are some top safety tips: 

  • Check any heating appliances are in good working order and not subject to a product recall by checking the Office for Product Safety and Standards website for any alerts or recalls
  • Ensure flammable items such as furniture and drying clothes are placed well away from heaters and fires
  • Ensure you use the correct fuel for wood burning stoves and open fires – to reduce the risk of toxic fumes, chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Check your escape routes, make sure they are clear from clutter and items such as portable heaters are not blocking them
  • If possible don’t skip servicing of boilers and gas appliances by a Gas Safe engineer to prevent gas leaks and CO poisoning. Landlords must arrange for an annual gas safety check in rented accommodation. If you’re a homeowner check your energy provider’s website for information about their Priority Services Register – if you’re eligible they often offer a free annual gas safety check along with other support.

More advice and information can be found in our Community Safety section/