London Fire Brigade

Electric heaters causing a fire a day, warn fire chiefs

03 December 2012

With temperatures in the capital set to drop below freezing this weekend, fire chiefs are issuing a warning as new figures show that electric heaters cause around one fire a day in London during winter.

New figures from the London Fire Brigade shows that over the last four winters there have been 310 fires, 10 fire deaths and 57 injuries caused by electric heaters.

The Brigade is most concerned about the risk from portable electric heaters. According to the figures, heaters are disproportionately likely to be the cause of fires that result in people dying. Despite heaters starting only five per cent of the capital’s electrical fires,  a third of fatal electrical fires over the past three years involved heaters.

The Brigade’s warning for people to take extra care comes shortly after the first fire death involving a heater this winter. Last week (23 November) a man died following a fire on Harbord Street in Fulham which early indications suggest was caused by a heater setting fire to items nearby.

Most of these fires are easily preventable and are caused by heaters falling over and catching clothes or furniture alight. The Brigade is asking people not to become another statistic by following this advice:

• Never sit too close to the heater as you could set light to your clothes or chair, especially if you fall asleep.
• Heaters should stand where they can't be knocked over, away from beds, furniture and fabrics.
• Do not put anything on the heater or use it to dry clothes.

 London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said;

“I’m concerned that with the cold weather set to hit London this weekend more people will be pushed to use portable heaters to keep warm. During winter, we’re seeing one fire a day caused by heaters that have fallen over or set fire to clothes or furniture. People need to make sure their portable heaters are standing upright and kept well away from clothes or furniture.”

The Electrical Safety Council (ESC) – the UK charity dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents – is supporting the London Fire Brigade campaign.

Phil Buckle, Director General of ESC, said:

“A number of people take electricity for granted and pay a serious price. By following a few very simple safety precautions you could save a life. If you own an electric heater, please use it responsibly and if you know anyone who is elderly or vulnerable and is using an electric  heater, please make sure they understand the safe way to ensure they stay warm this winter.”

Ends

Notes to Editors

Heater fires statistics taken from December, January and February of 2008/9, 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12.

There were 310 fires, 10 fire deaths and 57 injuries caused by heating appliances during this period.

For more information about avoiding electrical fires in your home, visit: http://www.esc.org.uk/public/safety-in-the-home/fire-safety/