RESIDENTS with chimneys have been urged to take care if they plan on using open fires this Christmas.

The warning comes from Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire and Rescue Service, which has attended about 150 chimney fires this year.

The service advised people to sweep their chimney at least once a year, ideally before using it for the winter, and to make sure embers are properly put out.

Stuart Garner, risk reduction manager, said: “Cold weather can increase the risk of fire within the home, with many residents enjoying a log fire or turning up the heat when it is really cold and using portable heaters to stay warm.

“Avoid burning resinous woods and only burn suitable fuels. Do not overload your fireplace and make sure your fire is out before you leave the house or go to bed.

“When using a portable heater remember to unplug them before you go out or go to bed and keep away from curtains, furniture and other flammable materials.”

Judith Heathcoat, cabinet member for stronger and safer communities, added: “Winter definitely arrived this week and we all need that extra warmth, but we also want to ensure that everyone keeps their loved ones and property safe.”