Fire Prevention Advice

Fires in Thatched Properties

Each year we lose between 60 to 80 thatched properties to fire!

This is too many – Don’t Let it be Yours!

Properties most at risk:

Old properties with deep thatch, particularly those constructed pre-1960, are incompatible with the installation of modern wood burning stoves particularly in traditional chimney breasts. In some at risk properties there is no safe way to use a wood burning stove; choose an alternative, open fire, oil, gas or electric enclosed fire. In thatch a fire, once alight, is almost impossible to control. Chimney fires are high risk for properties with a thatched roof, but for all wood burning stove users there are common sense preventative actions that can be taken.


Modern multi fuel stoves fitted into old fire places and inglenooks can compromise chimney safety and cause a fire in the thatch.

Action: Get the installation and chimney construction checked. Use an alternative heater

Sweep the chimney twice a year.

Action: Sweep in October sweep again in February – March. The most thatch fires occur in April.

Birds love to nest in open chimney pots and can fill a chimney with flammable sticks in a very few day

Action: Fit a bird guard.

Chimney Fires in Thatched Properties | National Society of Master Thatchers

Using a log burner safely:

The only safe fuel is properly seasoned Wood should ideally be 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.

Action: Check wood moisture content is below 20%, using a moisture meter (obtainable from any builder’s merchant). Or buy professionally kiln dried wood. Store in a dry airy place.

Use a chimney flue thermometer to monitor burn conditions. Too hot will compromise the temperature gradient between chimney bricks and flue gases even with a lin, too cold will allow a build-up of tar, which if left can cause chimney fires.

Action: Never burn rubbish or treated timber.

Chimney Fires in Thatched Properties
Fires in Thatched Properties

Look for the warning signs:

  • Stoves are not incinerators; do not burn any waste materia
  • Chemically treated timbers and building waste will produce tar and toxic gasses.
  • A properly managed fire, using the correct fuel will not blacken the glass.
  • Look at bird guards and spark arrestors, if they are black there will be tar build up in the chimney which could ignite (This is the most common cause of chimney fires and is completely avoidable).
  • Soot is a powder; any lumps indicate tar formation in the flu
  • Be aware a fire can burn unseen in a deep thatch for several days before it is detect
Roof Thatchers - National Society of Master Thatchers