However, the study suggests that within this group, only two-fifths take some precautions to ensure their fires are safe and appropriate for their area.
Just over a third of people who plan to use fires to heat their homes (37%) ensure their chimney is swept at least once a year, while surprisingly only 41% ensure that their chimney is not blocked or sealed.
A similar number (42%) say they only burn ‘appropriate’ fuels on their fire rather than household waste, while the same proportion (42%) check that their fuel is suitable for their fireplace or stove.
Less than half (43%) checked that the chosen fuel is suitable for the area in which they live.
Aviva offers the following tips for people considering using real fireplaces or stoves:
· Have your chimney swept regularly. The frequency depends on the type of fuel you burn and how often you use your stove or fireplace, but the National Association of Chimney Sweeps recommends at least once a year.
· Check the terms of your policy. Some insurance policies state that chimneys must be swept at specified intervals to minimize the risk of fire, particularly if a property has a thatched roof. If this is not done and a fire breaks out, customers risk having their claims denied.
· Make sure your chimney is not clogged or blocked. A fire should not be started if the associated chimney is “covered” – a technique used to prevent heat from escaping and dirt and debris from entering if a chimney is not in use. Likewise, a fire should not be used until all blockages are cleared, for example birds may have nested in or on the chimney if it has not been used for a few months.
· Check what fuels can be burned on your fire or in your stove. Wood-burning stoves are designed differently from multi-fuel stoves which tend to incorporate a raised grate to allow air to help burn the coals. Fuels tend to burn at different temperatures and excessive heat can damage a burner.
· Check the rules for your area. If you live in a smoke control area, you will be more limited on what you can burn. Your local authority should be able to advise for your area and you can find out more about smoke control rules at Gov.uk
· Do not use your fire as a trash can. Not everything is suitable for combustion. For example, plastics can release dangerous chemicals when burned, and aerosols are prone to exploding. So respect the items intended for your fires and stoves.
· Be careful how you dispose of your ashes. Ashes and embers can hold their heat for many hours, so be sure not to throw them in the trash too soon. If you must move them, place them in a metal container outside until you are sure they are cold.
Hannah Davidson, senior household underwriting manager at Aviva, says: “It is a real concern that people can put so much risk by not taking simple fire safety measures.
“Homes, property and, unfortunately, lives can be put at risk if chimneys are covered or not swept properly – or if the wrong type of fuel is used. We urge people to act now to ensure that fire pits and stoves are safe and suitable if people plan to use them this year.
“It’s understandable that people are looking for alternative ways to heat their properties, but it’s essential that people put a few controls in place first, to enjoy the warmth and comfort of a real fire without worry.”