Fuming over chimney fires

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A fire chief says chimney fires have reached epidemic proportions in Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago.

“We’ve had a little over 30 chimney fires in the last five to six months,” Fire and Emergency New Zealand assistant area manager Steve Jones says.

“It’s our leading cause of residential structural fires.”

He notes the two main causes are failure to clean chimneys properly and installation faults.

Another cause is burning wet wood.

“It’s critical that people get their chimney cleaned and inspected, and not just have a good look up the flue and go, ‘oh yes, smoke seems to be coming out OK’.

“That doesn’t mean it’s clean.

“I suggest either using a professional or, if you have the competence, get a kit from Mitre 10 or wherever and do it yourself – and check not only the flue but the cowling itself.”

Jones says a lot of older fires have been installed incorrectly with combustible material too close to the flue outlets.

With wet wood, he suggests buying a moisture metre for about $20 to test your firewood.

“That might save you losing two-thirds of your roof”‘.