London Fire Brigade

Acetylene cylinders

Cylinder campaign poster

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been working hard reduce the disruption caused to London by incidents involving acetylene gas cylinders. We campaign to ensure the safe use, signage and storage of acetylene cylinders and to create a greater awareness of the additional dangers they bring when they are involved in fires and other incidents.

Alongside the awareness campaign, London Fire Brigade has been instrumental in developing new national protocols for dealing with incidents involving cylinders and in March 2011 these were implemented in London.

The issue

The danger of acetylene cylinders exploding means a hazard zone of a 200m radius is initially set up every time they are reported to be involved in a fire. This can remain in place for many hours, causing major disruption to roads and public transport and evacuations from homes and businesses.

Preventing fires involving acetylene cylinders

The LFB works to raise the profile of the dangers of cylinders through meetings, targeted communications and seminars.  An information leaflet (available below) developed as part of this work explains the risks involved with storing acetylene cylinders and the dangers associated with it in fires. It is distributed across London by the LFB and borough councils.

This prevention work was designed to reduce the numbers of incidents involving acetylene cylinders. In 2006 the average frequency of acetylene cylinder incidents in London was every 14 days. In 2010 this figure dropped to an average of one acetylene incident every 40 days.

Responding to fires involving acetylene cylinders

To resolve incidents safely, quickly and effectively when they do occur, the London Fire Brigade has reviewed operational procedure and looked at the way incidents are managed and what resources are available for them. The LFB has also been instrumental in developing new national protocols for dealing with incidents involving cylinders and in March 2011 these were implemented in London. They will be implemented across the country in 1 July 2011.

The LFB has in place an arrangement with Network Rail, the Highways Agency and Transport for London and defence company QinetiQ using Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). These ROVs can be used to safely assess and deal with the cylinders, allowing incidents to be resolved more quickly.

This work has reduced the disruption acetylene cylinder incidents cause. In 2006 the average time taken to deal with an acetylene incident in London was 19 hours. With the introduction of the new procedure in March 2011 this time has been reduced to an average time of less than 3 hours.


British Compressed Gases Association