3.5.16 Dorset and Wiltshire fire services reissue safety advice after eight thatch fires in two months


Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has reissued safety advice following an unusually large number of thatch fires.

There have been eight thatch fires in two months, the equivalent of one thatch fire a week.  Fire services have stressed that although beautiful these thatched homes carry a real risk of fire.

A statement issued by the fire service said that these fires can be difficult to tackle as the thatch is designed to repel water and so the straw has to be stripped away to give fire fighters access to the flames.

It continued by saying that research has shown that a major cause of fires in thatched properties is heat transfer from the chimney into the thatch.  The thatch then reaches its ignition temperature and a roof fire can develop.

They issued the following tips for anyone that owns a thatched property:

1. Have the chimney swept regularly by a qualified chimney sweep.

2. Only burn seasoned wood.

3. Have the chimney inspected by a qualified chimney engineer.

4. If you have a spark arrestor fitted, clean it regularly. This should be done every three months on chimneys in regular use and the arrestor should be taken down to clean.

5. Fit a bird guard to deter birds from building nests in chimneys.

6. Smoke alarms should be installed throughout your home.  If you have a loft space, then an interlinked smoke alarm should be fitted which is connected to at least one other within the property.

7. Check the electrical system throughout your home.

8. Be careful when using blowtorches or heat guns (if plumbing or painting etc).

9. Restrict the use of bonfires near to your property.

10. Consider a system of heat sensors within the thatch around the chimney. This will give you an early warning of any overheating of the thatch.

11. Install an outside tap with enough hose to reach around the house, including the roof. This can be used to tackle any fires at an early stage.

12. Consider forming a fireproof barrier between the roof timbers and the thatch layer when renovating or undertaking re-roofing.  A thatch fire will be mainly restricted to the thatch and damage to the rest of the house will be limited.

Story collated by Liz Turnbull.

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Company number: 07810000