STAFFORDSHIRE Fire and Rescue is urging people to follow some top safety tips following a spate of chimney fires.
Head of Risk Reduction Glynn Luznyj said the number of chimney fires that the Service has attended has risen rapidly in 2013 when compared to the last three years.
He added: "This could be down to the fact that energy prices are increasing and people are using alternative, cheaper, ways of heating their homes now that the cold snap has arrived.
"It is absolutely vital that residents maintain their chimney flue thoroughly and regularly – the consequences of failing to do so could be life threatening.
"To keep yourself and your family safe, ensure that your chimney is swept at least once a year if you use smokeless fuel, oil or gas, twice a year if you use bituminous coal and four times a year if you use wood."
The Service is also reminding people of the importance of using a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers and to make sure that the fire is completely extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house.
It is also essential to use good quality fuel.
Bio-ethanol burners can also pose a risk and the Service would urge people to take extra care when using flammable liquids.
For more information on chimney fire safety visit http://www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk/2333.asp