July 23 2014 Latest news:

A combination of the recent dry, warm days and chilly evenings could prove a dangerous combination for owners of thatched houses who turn to the warmth of a real fire.

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Chimneys which have been in regular use over the long, cold winter may well have accumulated a build-up of soot deposits.

It is therefore vital homeowners remember to have their chimneys swept to help prevent the risk of fire, particularly as the prolonged spell of dry weather is likely to have left thatch roofs tinder dry.

Insurers NFU Mutual said there had been a recent spate of thatch fires.

Nearly all thatch fires are caused by chimneys and wood burning stoves and rebuilding can take up to 18 months.

Although statistically a home with a thatched roof is no more likely to catch fire than a home with a conventional roof, if a thatched roof does ignite the fire can be very difficult to control.

As such, the consequences of a thatch fire are often devastating, leaving buildings partially or totally destroyed.

Nicki Whittaker from NFU Mutual said: “Living beneath a thatched roof doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the warmth of a real fire, but it is important homeowners exercise a degree of caution before lighting an open fire or wood burning stove.

“There are plenty of measures you can employ to help protect your property.

“Homeowners can carry out their own checks, but if you have not used your fire or wood-burner for a while it’s probably advisable you speak to a qualified thatcher or fire safety officer for further tips on preventative measures.”

Top thatch safety tips include ensuring the chimney stack is at least five feet above the thatch, allowing sparks to escape and die-out before they settle, regular chimney sweeping, having chimneys checked to ensure the brick or stone work is in good condition and considering having chimneys lined.

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