A 700-YEAR-OLD tradition is helping the people of Trafford
become more aware of the dangers of a modern trend.
Wood burning stoves are becoming increasingly popular and as low
temperatures continue to bring a chill to Greater Manchester, the
fire service has teamed up with the Altrincham Court Leet to urge
people to use real fires carefully.
It is commonly believed that only gas appliances produce carbon
monoxide. In fact, all appliances that burn fuel produce carbon
monoxide, including fuel stoves and open fires.
This, and the risk of a chimney fire, is why it is important to
have your chimney swept by a trained and competent person, and use
open fires responsibly.
To help spread this message, the Altrincham Court Leet Constable
and Chimney Looker Burgess Derek Pierce, aged 85, has teamed up
with crews and community safety staff from Greater Manchester Fire
and Rescue Service's (GMFRS) Trafford borough.
Station Manager Kev Brogden said: "We've seen more people using
wood burning stoves and open fires recently - they seem to have
become popular again with all the DIY and make-over shows, but
there are dangers associated with them if they aren't used
correctly such as carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.
"More and more people are opening up their chimneys or
installing large wood burning fires so it's important that they
follow our advice. The Court Leet is a well-established tradition
in Altrincham so it made sense to work with them and the Chimney
Looker in raising awareness of the dangers."
In 1290, Altrincham was given a charter which allowed them
powers to regulate trade, look after the welfare of the public and
carry out justice via the Promote Court, or the Court Leet as it
The modern Court Leet follows the same ancient ceremonies and a
leader is appointed annually who is known as the Provost and who
selects officers to be part of the court - such as Chimney Looker,
Ale Taster and Market Looker.
Today they act as a voice to keep alive the history of
Altrincham and promote the welfare of the town's people.
Market Looker, Burgess Denise Laver said: "The Chimney Looker
has been around for hundreds of years and it's more of a token
title now, but at the time that's what we needed. The role still
exists and it's fantastic that we are able to team up with the fire
service and use the role of the Chimney Looker to promote
"Many people have a wood burning stove in their houses but the
problem with them is that some people aren't getting them from the
right places, they're not getting them fitted correctly by somebody
who is registered, and the stoves aren't being ventilated
"Some people leave the fire smouldering and shut the doors when
they go to bed but overnight, carbon monoxide is accumulating up
the chimney and this can be deadly."
There is a requirement under Building Regulations in England and
Wales to install a CO alarm where a new or replacement solid fuel
appliance is installed.
The symptoms of CO poisoning are: headaches, dizziness, nausea,
breathlessness, collapse, loss of consciousness.
If you experience these symptoms:
â€¢ Go to fresh air immediately - open doors and
â€¢ Turn off gas appliances and leave the house
â€¢ See a doctor immediately or go to hospital
â€¢ If you think there is an immediate danger, call the Gas
â€¢ Get a Gas Safe registered engineer to inspect your gas
appliances and flues to see if there is a dangerous problem - they
can be contacted on 0800 408 5500.
If you suspect a gas leak you should immediately do the
â€¢ Call National Grid's gas emergency free phone number:
0800 111 999
â€¢ Open all the doors and windows
â€¢ Shut off the gas supply at the meter control valve (if you
know where it is)
â€¢ Move to fresh air