In the recent heat swell that Melbournians experienced this was not an unreasonable concern. Gutters that are filled with leaves and tree branches certainly can be a fire risk but this risk is normally lower in the more built up areas of Melbourne. Fire fighters will often say that the greatest cause of fire in roof gutters is embers from open fireplaces. Houses that have open fireplaces with chimneys on the roof can be at risk, the embers can cause a fire in the guttering after they exit the chimney. Considering that the use of these open fireplaces occurs during the colder months this may seem surprising. After 12 years in the gutter cleaning business I can safely say that no one has ever said to me, “my house was on fire because my gutters were blocked.” But the surface of a metal or tiled roof will be the hottest part of the house on a warm day. During extreme heat we find the surfaces of some roofs can reach 60 degrees and higher. In the past fire fighters advised that during times of bush fire risk one should block all the downpipes and fill the guttering with water.
Failure to clear blocked gutters is more likely to cause water damage than fire damage. During heavy rain the water will overflow or backflow into the ceiling if the gutters and downpipes are blocked. We have many customers who came to us to prevent this water damage from occurring. During big heat swells there are often sudden weather changes and big thunderstorms, we are inundated with enquires every time this happens.
But if you live in Melbourne’s fringe suburbs fire risk may certainly be a reasonable concern.