London Fire Brigade

Cigarette warning following flat blaze

30 March 2012

London Fire Brigade is urging smokers to take care following a fire that began when a man left his cigarette to burn whilst visiting the toilet.

Two fire engines and ten firefighters were called to the fire, which was in a flat in Barking in Essex, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The man, believed to be in his sixties, told firefighters that he lit a cigarette before visiting the toilet and then went straight back to bed, forgetting the cigarette which he had left on the edge of an ashtray on the kitchen table. Some time later he was woken up by smoke and realised that the kitchen table and part of the floor was on fire. It is thought he then tried to put the fire out himself before dialling 999.

The Brigade’s fire investigators believe the cigarette dropped off the ashtray, causing the blaze.

Chris Daly, the Brigade’s Borough Commander for Barking and Dagenham, where the fire took place, said:  “Leaving lit cigarettes unattended can be a recipe for disaster and this man was lucky not to have been seriously hurt. If you smoke, it’s vital that you keep a close eye on your cigarettes as it’s all too easy for them to cause fires.

“If a fire does break out, our advice is always to get out, stay out and call 999, rather than trying to tackle the fire yourself.”

It is not thought that the man was seriously hurt but he was treated for minor smoke inhalation by the ambulance service.

There were no smoke alarms in the flat and Chris Daly took the opportunity to remind people about their importance: “Smoke alarms save lives as they give you an early warning if a fire breaks out in your home. We advise that an alarm is fitted on each level of your home in order for you to stay as safe as possible.”

The Brigade was called about the fire at  0321 on Wednesday 28 March and the incident was over by 0349. Firefighters from nearby Barking fire station were at the scene.

Figures show that forty per cent of deaths caused by fires in the home are caused by cigarettes, cigars or tobacco. In fact, households with a smoker are almost one and a half times more likely to suffer a fire than non-smoking households.

The Brigade offers the following top three safety tips on smoking:

1) Make sure your cigarette is out when you’ve finished smoking it.
2) Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down, land on a carpet or newspaper and start a fire.
3) Never smoke in bed – if you need to lie down, don’t light up. You could doze off and set your bed on fire.

ENDS

Notes to editors

More information on preventing cigarette fires can be found on the Brigade’s website.