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Thatched Roof Fires - Oakleafe Claims

The UK has thousands of traditional thatched roof properties.  Although statistically there is no increased risk of fire in properties that have thatched roofs, the impact of a fire can be far greater due to the combustible nature of the materials involved in its construction. A fire can burn unseen in a deep thatch for several days before it is detected, by which time it is too late. According to data from the Dorset & Wiltshire fire service, thatched roof fires need over 50 firefighters and at least eight firefighting appliances to suppress. Thatched properties usually burn far longer and have lingering heat spots which need to be monitored by thermal imaging for at least 24 hours. A lot of the fires are caused by the use of open fires and modern log burners. Historic buildings with a deep thatch roof, especially pre-1960 built properties, are completely incompatible with modern log burners that have traditional chimney breast installations. This also applies to some ‘at risk’ properties where the superstructure is made of potentially flammable materials - there simply is no safe way to use a log burner or wood burning cooking stove. Open fires, oil, gas or electric enclosed fires are safer options and pose a lower fire risk.

 

Modern multi fuel stoves fitted into old fire places and inglenooks can compromise chimney safety and are a major cause of fires in the thatch. Only safe fuel which is properly seasoned Wood should be used - ideally cut in year one stored in year two and used in year three. An alternative is to buy kiln dried wood from a reputable supplier. With a fire in a thatched property, once alight, it is almost impossible to control. Be mindful that chimney fires are also high risk for properties with a thatched roof. For all wood burning stove users there are common sense preventative actions that can be taken. You should sweep the chimney twice a year. Be mindful of birds that love open chimneys pots and can fill a chimney with flammable sticks when building their nest. Oakleafe Claims, who are Loss Assessors and help with Insurance claims as a result of Thatch Fires, advise there is a useful downloadable leaflet from the Thatch Advice Centre. Oakleafe state an average cost of a thatch fire for claims that they are helping policyholders with is in excess of £50,000. A chimney flue thermometer is useful to monitor burn conditions. Too hot and the heat will compromise the temperature gradient between chimney bricks and flue gases even with a liner - too cold and it will allow a build-up of tar, which is an accelerant and can easily cause chimney fires. Rubbish must never be burned in a log burner or open fire.

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