London Fire Brigade have issued an urgent safety warning asking residents to check their open fire chimney and flue are in good working condition, following a recent call out to a north London home, where dangerously high carbon monoxide (CO) levels were recorded and could have led to fatalities if left undetected.

The incident, at a semi-detached house that had been converted into flats on Osbourne Road in Southgate, came to the resident’s attention after they noticed a smell of burning. Our crews and a gas engineer investigated the source and found it was due to an open fire next door. Firefighters fear if the resident had not raised the alarm due to the smell of burning, it could have been fatal to all the occupants in the building. The Brigade went to the home after fumes from a neighbouring flat entered the property. The cause of the high CO levels was due to an open fire, which was lit in an adjoining flat earlier in the day. It had been left to smoulder and was not venting correctly, as neighbours went out for the evening.

The warning comes as many people try to heat their homes during the winter months in a cost-effective way as rising energy bills hit UK homes. The Brigade fears that costly energy bills could result in a surge of fires like these, as people resort to alternative means to heat their homes throughout the colder spells this winter.

Check chimneys and flues are swept regularly by registered chimney sweep

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “This incident is a timely reminder to Londoners to make sure that anyone with an open fire has their chimney and flue swept regularly by a registered chimney sweep. As we enter some of the coldest months of the year, it’s natural to want to heat homes in a cost-effective way but keeping warm does need to be done in a safe way. This incident could have had very deadly consequences were it not for the resident smelling the fire burning and calling 999.

“If you’re lighting an open fire, do follow our safety precautions carefully. We know with financial pressures people are thinking about ways to reduce energy bills, but we’re really concerned that they may be putting lives at risk by doing so. For example, don’t risk using treated wood on fires. Not only can they produce toxic fumes, but they are also more likely to spit embers when burnt, which could set alight to nearby objects. It’s also important to make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms in your home. You can't taste, see, or smell carbon monoxide fumes, but it can kill in minutes.”

Besides the CO risk, the Brigade is also making people aware that almost 30 per cent of fires involving log burners, heaters and traditional open fires are caused by items being placed too close to a heat source. Always use a fire guard and keep anything that could catch alight well away, such as logs and kindling which could be ignited by radiating heat.


Safety tips for log burners and open fires: 

  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained. 
  • Always have your chimney swept by a specialist – at least once a year for coal, twice if burning logs. 
  • Make sure you use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers. 
  • Keep clothing and fabric well away from open fires and log burners.  
  • Watch out for children and pets – supervise them carefully and use fire guards. 

For more information on safer heating see the advice on the Brigade’s website. There is also support available to help with energy bills – you can contact your local authority and Citizens Advice can provide information on grants and benefits to assist in paying your energy bills. The Mayor of London’s Cost of Living Hub is also available to Londoners, providing information, financial support and advice to help manage household finances. SHINE London also has a dedicated helpline and affordable interventions available. 

Londoners can also make sure their homes are safe by using the Brigade’s online Home Fire Safety Checker, which can provide tailored fire safety advice.


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