Fergus Sharman is the Fire Safety Community Champion for Bassingbourn and surrounding area. Fergus is a local chimney sweep and as such is well placed to fulfil the fire safety role.
Any local group or organisation that would like to receive a fire safety presentation are welcome to contact Fergus to arrange a talk (remember that this is a volunteer service and will cost nothing).
Smoke alarms are considered to be the best defence in the event of fire. They give you vital extra time to escape.
A smoke alarm should be fitted to every floor of your home
When you return from a holiday make sure you check your smoke alarms are still working – test them
Remember only a working smoke alarm will help save your life in the event of a fire
Most domestic fires were in a kitchen. Fires resulting from unattended cooking featured heavily.
No act of cooking should be left unattended. Check to ensure that hobs and ovens are turned off when not needed. Remember that ceramic hobs may be accidentally switched on so do not place items on the hob (I’ve set fire to a cloth this way).
Carelessly discarded cigarettes.
Still a regular cause of domestic fire. Please ensure that all smoking material is properly extinguished, especially at bed time. If you are smoking in bed you are definitely heading for trouble if your habit is to fall asleep while lit up.
A common cause especially if electrical work has been carried out by non qualified people. Old electrical installations should be inspected by a qualified sparky who will advise on any improvements that should be made. You may consider the inspection expensive but it may save your home and your life and at least you will have peace of mind that your electrics are safe.
It’s always controversial when I tell people that they should only operate washers and tumble driers when they can be observed. The statistics for fires caused by these items justify the advice. It is safest to operate washing machines and tumble driers when you are awake and when you are at home (if the fire takes place when you are out it will not kill you but your property may suffer greater damage).
An increasing cause in recent year as candles have become very popular. Please ensure they are placed on a suitable platform and kept well away from stuff that will catch fire easily such as curtains. Do not leave them unattended. You should ensure that they are extinguished at bed time.
Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service were called to at least 3 chimney fires in September last year. In all cases the chimneys had not been swept and the fire was caused by a build up of deposits in the chimneys. In December last year 11 chimney fires were attended.
To prevent chimney fire the chimneys should be swept at least once a year. If burning wood, your chimney may need additional sweeping, depending on the amount of use.
Damp unseasoned wood is the biggest cause of tar build up in a chimney. Only burn well seasoned dry wood. For those of you with moisture meters the ideal moisture content is between 14 and 18 % (maybe up to 20% depending on who you talk to). You can also tell if the wood is dry by knocking two similar pieces together and listening to the sound (I can’t describe the sound in words so you will need to experiment and with experience you will know). Less water means more heat energy for the room and to bring about the best combustion of the fuels.
In stoves, do not burn pieces that are too large. Small quantities of fuel burnt at a furious rate will give better efficiency and will burn off more of the volatiles that cause the tar build up in the chimney. Read the instruction manual for your stove and learn how to operate it.
Slow burning, often done overnight, is an inefficient use of your fuel. There is not enough heat produced to burn off the volatiles and it is these that will condense and build up in your chimney. There will not be enough heat in the chimney to keep these volatiles in a gaseous state that will exit the chimney with other flue gases.
As it happens I am a chimney sweep and if I am called to sweep a chimney I will happily discuss wood burning regimes and I can also recommend suppliers of good quality wood fuel.
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service have initiated the Fire Safety Community Champion Scheme with the aim of encouraging greater consideration to be given to home fire safety. Preventing fire is better than deploying crews to save life and property. Cambridgeshire ACRE co-ordinate the scheme.
The scheme relies upon local volunteers, who have been trained by the Fire Service, to go out into their local communities and speak about fire safety. The main emphasis is on educating members of the community to carry out a fire safety check of their properties. For those less confident in carrying out their own fire safety check, the Community Champion will arrange for a member of the Fire Service to visit and complete a check.