£4m bill for rural chimney fires

RURAL residents are being reminded to have their chimneys swept ahead of the autumn after fires involving chimneys left rural insurer NFU Mutual with a bill of almost £4million last year.

Picture: James Hardisty (JH1005/35a)

A fifth of the claims were made in January 2014 and another fifth two months later which, the insurer said, highlighted that not only should a flue or chimney be swept before the first fire of the season is lit, but if an open fire or wood burning stove is frequently used then it should be swept again during the winter period.

NFU Mutual is promoting its message as part of an ‘Assets to Ashes’ campaign which has been launched this week to coincide with Chimney Fire Safety Week, an initiative promoted by the Chief Fire Officers Association.

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Chloe Drinkwater, high-value home specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “Our Assets to Ashes campaign is designed to remind people how quickly fire can devastate lives. Your home and possessions are precious so it is important to take a few extra precautions before lighting the first fire of the season.

“As part of Chimney Fire Safety Week we are reminding people that chimneys and flues should be kept clean, well maintained and should be swept on a regular basis by a professional chimney sweep.

“Many homeowners do not appreciate the additional cost of re-building a property, particularly if it is thatched, so it is important that people check that their buildings and contents are properly insured should a fire occur.”

Thatch fire claims accounted for £2.6m in payouts to NFU Mutual customers last year.

Mark Abram from the Chief Fire Officers Association said: “There are around 7,000 chimney fires every year in the UK and most of these are entirely preventable.”