Residents are being urged to have their chimneys cleaned during the summer to prevent chimney fires in the winter months.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service is calling on people to sweep their chimneys and clear anything blocking the flue that could cause a fire.

The message coincides with national Chimney Fire Safety Week, from July 30 to August 5.

Since the credit crunch, it appears more people are using open fires and wood burners, possibly because of the rising costs of gas, electricity and oil.

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service attended 122 chimney fires between April 2009 and March 2012, most of which could have been prevented.

The highest number of chimney fires on Merseyside during that period occurred in Sefton, which had 58 incidents. Of those, there were 23 in Southport and 14 in Crosby.

There were 26 in Wirral, 16 in Liverpool, 15 in St Helens and seven in Knowsley.

Most of the incidents occurred in Merseyside during the winter months and in England there are 6,000 chimney fires a year.

MF&RS Watch Manager Mark Jones, said: “Most chimney fires are preventable. Regular inspection and cleaning of chimney flues can prevent fires breaking out.

“We are urging anyone who plans to light their fires this winter, to get them swept first. Now is the time to have this done, while they are not in use.

“The cost of a chimney sweep is comparatively low compared to dealing with the damage caused by fire.”

Caroline McGee, MF&RS Sefton Community Safety Manager, said: “Although the number of chimney fires in Sefton across the three years is not particularly high, it is the highest in Merseyside and we would urge residents to use this time in the summer to have their chimneys cleaned and prevent a fire in the winter months.”

MF&RS has also given tips on how to reduce chances of having a fire in the chimney:
• Sweep the chimney before it is used.
• Ensure a fireguard is in front of the fire at all times.
• Extinguish the fire before leaving the house.
• Never use petrol or paraffin to light the fire.
• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm on each level of your home and you check that it works each week by pressing the test button.

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