Cold weather sparks a rise in chimney blazes

A chimney fire broke out at the Bricklayers Arms in Midhurst on Tuesday, February 19.
A chimney fire broke out at the Bricklayers Arms in Midhurst on Tuesday, February 19.

FIREFIGHTERS in the Observer area have been battling an unusually high number of chimney fires, with crews attending around one fire a day over the winter months.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has attended more than 150 chimney fires in the last year.

The problem is believed to have flared up because of the long winter and expensive fuel bills, prompting people to turn to their efficient woodburners and open fires.

On Saturday, March 28, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service was called to a chimney fire in Plaistow. On Thursday, April 4, firefighters tackled a blaze at a property Valentines Lea, Northchapel, and on Saturday April 6, were called to a house in Easebourne Street, Midhurst.

A ‘difficult’ chimney fire broke out in a property in Balls Cross and Petworth firefighters had to use ladders to fight the fire from above.

The fire service has also venutured to local pubs in the area to fight the flames. On Monday afternoon, Midhust firefighters were called to The Elsted Inn, in Elsted Marsh, and later in the evening, to The Mill Tavern, in Liphook Road.

In February, firefighters spent hours tackling a blaze at the Bricklayers Arms, in Midhurst.

The fire was reported quickly by Paul Blackmun, landlord of the pub, who was inside serving customers at the time.

“I was burning logs and coals as I usually do,” said Paul.

“It was business as usual. I don’t know how it happened. I heard the roar from the chimney and knew it was alight.”

Speaking at the time, station Commander, Nigel Gamblen, said: “Sparks from the wood fly in to the chimney, igniting it.

“We had to call for more man power because the building is very old.”

To avoid chimney fires, West Sussex County Council advise regular sweeping, especially for woodburning appliances and suggests the use of fire guards.