It’s not that thatched roof properties are statistically more likely to catch fire than conventional tiled or asphalt roof properties. Actually, it’s rather more the other way around, as those with thatched properties take more precautions when it comes to fire safety. This is due to the fact that the damage that fire can cause to a property is far more severe with thatched roofs – and far more expensive to repair!
External fires are the most obvious hazard to thatched roof properties. Obviously you don’t want to have anything with an open flame too close to the property. This includes things like barbecues and bonfires, as the smallest of embers can start a fire. It’s also important, however, to educate your closest neighbours on the dangers of open flames and discourage them from discharging fireworks or anything like that close by your property.
Maintain a safe chimney
The minimum chimney height specified by UK building regulations for thatched roof coverings is 1.8 metres high, yet the majority of fires involving wood burning stoves occur when the chimney height is lower than the regulation minimum. If your chimney is not at least 1.8 metres high, it is highly recommended that you rectify this so that ejected embers are less likely to come into contact with the thatch. Additionally, you should have your chimney lined correctly and maintained regularly.
Electrical fires are one of the top causes of house fires for all types of properties; not just thatched houses. In the UK, over half of all accidental domestic fires are caused by electricity each year.
In the age of modern technology, with cords and cables trailing every wall, it’s important to be aware of how we can reduce the risk of electrical fires. Always make sure that you repair, replace or discard any plugs and cables that become damaged. As the majority of electrical fires start in the kitchen, you should always ensure that your kitchen appliances are in a safe condition and never switch on an appliance if in doubt.
If you haven’t already, consider installing a Residual Current Device to your fuse box. An RCD will switch off your electricity automatically if there is a fault. Additionally, for fires that begin in the home, a reliable smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alarm can help to prevent any domestic fires from spreading to the main structure of the house, by allowing you to extinguish the flames before they become unmanageable.
Ensuring easy access to the roof
If your loft is stacked from floor to ceiling with stored items, consider relocating these items to allow quick and easy access to the roof should a fire occur. This can save precious minutes when it comes to extinguishing the fire as quickly as possible. Many families store valuable items or even priceless heirlooms in the loft, however these may be first to catch fire and may be too difficult or dangerous to save in time.
Thatch fires can be difficult to extinguish, but the key is to extinguish fires as quickly as possible to prevent spreading. Having an outdoor water source available can be incredibly helpful in case of a fire – especially if your property is located in a remote area that is difficult to get to. This could be an outdoor hose or a nearby pond to supply adequate water should you need it, prior to the arrival of your local fire service. It’s also recommended that you learn where your nearest fire hydrant.
Minimising the risk of fire can in cases reduce your thatched property insurance premium, but you should always seek a specialist in any case as they have the experience to provide you with a better, more tailored policy and at a far lower cost.
Of the estimated 60,000 thatched properties in Britain, three quarters of these are listed buildings. This is to identify them as being buildings of historical and cultural significance, celebrating English heritage. As such, thatched property owners need to be aware of whether or not they are prevented from making changes to the property’s structural characteristics.