Fire and thatch, a burning issue

I thought that installing a woodburning stove in your timber framed, thatched cottage would’ve meant making a safer environment by enclosing naked flames within a box. Not so… alarming figures and published research has shown that conflagrations have increased significantly since the recent trend of installing wood stoves.

During a day hosted by Suffolk Preservation Society in Lavenham, presentations were made by numerous bodies including the Suffolk Fire Service, NFU Mutual Insurance Services, English Heritage and Burgoynes Forensic Investigators. Presentations were made about how fires start, how fires affect insurance claims and premiums and most importantly, how to minimise the risks of one starting.

Research has shown that fires have started through use of incorrect of fuel i.e. unseasoned wood contributing to creosote, which then clogs up the flue, and too much kindling or paper, which makes too hot a fire and cinders, which forced up and out of the chimney can land on the thatch. Also noted was that heat transfer through the flue into the thatch can lead to charring and eventual combustion.

Keith Benjamin, of Burgoynes Forensics, has published an in-depth article about his research and findingsĀ  into this rising trend in thatch fires. It is disturbing to note that these fires often lead to total loss of property, due to their often remote locations and that thatch fires are so difficult to extinguish.

It seems that undertaking regular maintenance of the stove and chimney, and simply understanding of fire and how it can start minimises the risks of having a multi fuel stove installed in a deep thatch roofed home.

The scariest fact I learnt was that, once a fire is detected, it’s almost always too late to stop it and minimise the damage.