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INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS OF CHIMNEY SWEEPS

By Sascha Meding – our man in Transylvania

ESCHFOE conference

From the 22ndto the 26thAugust 2018 chimney sweeps from all over the world gathered in the well know Romanian region of Transylvania. The participants of the general conference came from 17 European member countries England, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Belgium, Norway, Italy, Serbia and the Netherlands, and the United States of America. In addition to that representatives from Moldavia and Estonia also attended the meetings. Special guests were the Romanian Fire Brigade Commander, the representative of the National Gas Supplier E-on and the minister for environmental affairs for Romania. The guest of honour was the retired engineer and Master Chimney Sweep Dr. Dieter Stehmeier.

Our Eschfoe sponsors for this year were EKA Twin Wall Chimney Systems, RESS,  Snaplok Romania, LeiKoSi, Leier and many more. RESS, Snaplok and EKA are familiar names in the UK, LeiKoSi however is a new company on the market. The product is made in Germany and is a device where you can secure your ladder to the gutter or flat roof, so it prevents it from slipping.

The meeting was opened by the president of the federation Mr Oswald Wilhelm. Every country was warmly welcomed and a special thank you was given to the American Chimney Sweep Organisation and representatives for the furthest and longest travel and the continuous attendance over the past decades. “Every year we meet we are a strong group and this makes the chimney industry strong. The most important job for chimney sweeps and our associates is fire safety. Fire safety and working together is very important to save lives and protect homes”, says Mr Wilhelm.

The agenda items included some administrate points, like voting new member countries in and out. The Italian organisation Anfus was voted out as they have not been paying the membership subscriptions and a new organisation representing Spain has joined and has officially been voted in.

Mr Dan Morari from the National Gas Supplier for Romania E-On was present and the first guest speaker of the day. “Chimney sweeps bring luck and I believe that this is true. Since working together more people are lucky even if they do not know it. The chimney sweeps are the protectors for homes and the fire brigade the rescuer, which leaves us as the baddies. No, we want to belong to the good guys too. That’s why we have joined them and the results are staggering. The activity of informing and prevention has helped to cut CO poisoning by 50 % in the last 6 years. There are messages we give people every year and there are still people that ignore it. This is something we do not understand. For instance how important it is to sweep the chimney at least twice per year by an authorised, competent and trained chimney sweep.  We as a company are relying on our partners the chimney sweeps to bring safety to every house and to support them we are sponsoring national adverts throughout the year” he says.

The president of the Romanian chimney sweeping organisation “ASFOCH” Mr Mircea Balsoianu welcomed everyone to his country. “I am extremely proud to stand here today and welcome chimney sweeps and representatives from chimney sweeping organisations. People from 19 countries have come and we want to wish us all a very prosperous conference. We also thank our special guests who are here today, which we are working together with for public safety.”

The General Firebrigade Inspector of Romania Dr. Ovideu Vasilica. “Building a safety net now will cost money but will save a lot of money in the future, less fires and deaths. House fires cost us all socially, economically, slow down the progress of the whole country, money and lives. Our statistics show that 40 % of house fires are caused by faulty chimney construction and misuse of appliances and more than 10 % of house fires end fatal. This is why the chimney sweeps, the fire brigade and the National Gas Supplier E-On have joined forces and this has had tremendous success.”

The General Inspector presented the president of the ESCHFOE Mr Oswald Wilhelm and the president of the Romaian organisation ASFOCH Mr Mircea Balsoianu with a medal of honour from the Government for orderly and safety of the Romanian public. To honour them and the chimney sweeping trade that lives have been saved and fatalities are constantly decreasing.

Mr Wilhelm has also been honoured with a plaque for celebrating the future relationships between the Romanian Government and ESCHFOE.

After the administrative business and the general speeches, the ESCHFOE technical working group gave their report on what they were working on over the last 12 month. The most exciting and interesting thing is a chimney sweeps image campaign and image brochure. The brochure will give the public an oversight of all countries which are organised and involved in the ESCHFOE and all the important work chimney sweeps are doing.

The working group also worked a lot on statistics and industry standardisation processes. Statistics have shown that the most CO fatalities are happening at Shisha bars or come from BBQ’s and flues.

The group has concluded that pellet fuelled appliances should be swept twice per year in the European countries. In several countries the chimney sweeps have been actively training the fire brigade on how to extinguish a chimney fire in the most effective way.

Statistics have also shown that 50 % of new builds in Germany have heat pumps, no chimneys. In Switzerland this is already at 80%. The industry is calculating that it will increase by 1% each year in the future, so these means that the task of the chimney sweeps will need to change. “Better training is absolutely necessary to stay experts in our fields” says Mr Michael Verderber, Vice Chairman of ESCHFOE, who was attending 5 standardisation meetings last year.

A main focus over the last year was GDPR, Health & Safety and a new homepage of ESCHFOE website will be launched next year.

Mr Verderber told the group about his attendance at the St. Florian’s celebrations in Austria and the German “Bundesverbandstag” (Annual General Meeting of the German Guild) in Hamburg, where he represented the ESCHFOE.  He gave a big thank you to Dr. Stehmeier for his work in the ESCHFOE in the last 26 years. In Austria he was taking part in a working group for data security, GDPR and technical guidelines for solid fuel and also chaired the technical meeting that produced a new guideline for soot doors for Austria.

Petteri Virranta, 2ndVice President has been on the ESCHFOE board for 12 years. “A good communication and strong working relationships are more necessary now than ever before. The ESCHFOE has a good team of people and communication between the members but also to the Nordic countries, including Baltic countries Estonia and Russia must also be moved forward.”

Every country has now got the opportunity to give their country report, which we will publish over the next months in Guild Latest News.

I was representing the UK chimney sweeping trade at the meeting. I informed them of what was happening in the UK with government legislation and air quality issues in relation to domestic burning. I presented a report on the BurnRight campaign which was received with great interest and standing ovations!

The conference was a great success and each country has gone away with some more information and knowledge about our industry.