Did you know? There are more than 2,000 fires caused by chimneys in Ireland every year. That’s more than 50 fires a week during the Autumn – Spring seasons1. While having your fireplace lit can create a cosy, warm atmosphere in your home and can be used as a heating source to cut energy costs, it can also be extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, our claims team sees the devastating effects of these chimney fires on the lives and properties of our customers. 

We’ve put together a list of steps you can take to help protect your home and family from the effects of a chimney fire.    

  1. Get your chimney swept every year

Just like your car gets an annual service, your chimney also needs to be checked every year by a Chimney Sweep. This is probably the most effective way to prevent a chimney fire from starting. 

Get a Chimney Sweep to clean the flue, ideally before you start using the fire again in the autumn. This will remove the creosote/soot that builds up on the chimney’s flue. 

A flue is the pipe that conveys the hot gases from an open fire or stove up through a chimney stack and out to the atmosphere. Creosote is a tar like lining that sticks to the surface of the flue and is combustible. If creosote builds up on the flue surface, it will ‘choke’ the flue, preventing it from getting the gases up and away. The more creosote there is, the greater the fire risk. 

Dirty chimney pipe

Always call a Chimney Sweep if you notice a change in conditions; if you have difficulty lighting the appliance; if smoke comes out of the appliance into the room; if bits of creosote or even broken bits of flue fall into the stove or into the grate of an open fire.

A Chimney Sweep can provide other important services to ensure the safety of your heat producing appliance, such as: 

  • A CCTV camera survey, to show the condition of the flue up along its length.
  • A smoke test, to see how effective the chimney’s draw is.
  • A cowl fitted to the top of the chimney, to keep out birds or rain.    
  • Advice on ensuring that enough air is getting to the appliance: the hot air that goes up the flue has to be replaced by new air coming into the room. 
  • Advice on monitoring for Carbon Monoxide. This deadly gas is created by all heat producing appliances. It can build-up in a room if the flue is unable to properly discharge it.  

2     Be careful with what you burn in the appliance

Make sure that any wood burnt in the appliance is dry, seasoned wood. Otherwise the moisture within the wood can cause creosote build-up to form rapidly. Different type of solid fuel, like coal and turf, burn at different temperatures, and cause creosote to form at different rates. 

3    Never burn household rubbish in the appliance!

This material burns at a low temperature which causes creosote to form on the surface of the flue. Bits of the rubbish tend to go unburnt in the fire or stove, to get carried up the flue in the smoke from the fire, to stick to the flue surface. All of this creates the conditions for a chimney fire to occur. 

Black soot in flue

4    Keep fuel and anything combustible away

Keep anything that can ignite away from the fire. Make sure that stored fuel is kept well away from the open fire or stove. This means all wood, briquettes, papers, firelighters, coal and turf. As a rule of thumb, you should have to walk over to the appliance with the fuel to add it to the fire! This also means all fabrics – never place clothes or chairs in front of a fire. Never, ever be tempted to use a flammable liquid to start a fire; there are invisible, flammable vapours given off from this liquid that will ignite.    

5    Make sure your chimney is built and maintained properly

The design of modern chimneys hasn’t changed in decades but there are key parts that are needed to ensure a safe and effective chimney: 

  • A flue is needed within the chimney stack. Ideally one formed from segments of clay flue liners that are properly sealed together with mortar. This is the best way to ensure the efficient discharge of smoke from a fire or stove, up and out to the atmosphere, away from the interior. If the flue is absent, the large void inside a chimney stack allows the smoke to linger, which hinders the performance of the appliance, and causes creosote to form. 
Chimney flue held with sand
  • The flue needs to be surrounded in a special type of sand known as vermiculite. The sand ensures that the flue is held in place and that it heats-up evenly when the appliance is in use.  
  • An intact chimney stack is important. Cracks in the chimney stack will allow rainwater to seep in, which degrades the condition of the whole chimney.
Cracked chimney

6    Check the qualifications of anyone doing work on your chimney or its heat producing appliance

This is especially important if you are getting a stove installed. These burn at a temperature that is much hotter than an open fire. This extra heat can ignite combustible materials around – or even within or behind – a chimney. Just because an open fire has worked without issue for years, if you change to a stove, the extra heat can seek out problems with the chimney that you were unaware of. There are detailed requirements that the installer will need to comply with, especially for the separation distance between a stove and any nearby materials, which are described in the Building Regulations’ technical guidance document2.  You should insist that the installer of your stove provides a certificate of compliance with Part J of the Building Regulations.  


As wonderful as fireplaces are, they can also be a serious fire hazard. If you follow the above steps and ensure your chimney is cleaned and inspected by a Chimney Sweep every year, you can enjoy the benefits of your fireplace without worry.

However, if the unthinkable does happen and your property has suffered damage due to a fire, you can register your claim on MyAllianz or call us on 01 613 3990.


  1. https://www.gov.ie/en/collection/3c982-causes-of-fires-statistics/
  2. https://assets.gov.ie/100335/e8bfd6c6-9fdc-4c39-8b19-d994e22c3b6f.pdf 


Allianz p.l.c is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Information correct as of date of publishing. This blog will not be updated or edited so the information may become outdated.