London Fire Brigade

2,000 homes in the capital lost to fire each year

31 October 2011

Over 2,000 homes across London are being lost to fires each year according to new figures released today by London Fire Brigade, causing an estimated £120 million worth of damage and adding to the housing shortage across the capital.

The Brigade has taken an innovative new approach and designed a system to rate the severity of house fires. The index ranks fires as severe, significant, moderate or slight and shows that in the last year 2,257 fires, a third of all house fires, were severe.

A severe fire is categorised as a fire which has rendered a property uninhabitable for any period of time. It will have caused damage to more than five metres of the house and taken firefighters more than 45 minutes to bring under control. Some homes may be uninhabitable for just a few days but in many cases, it takes people months or even years to move back in. In the worst cases, homes are completely destroyed.

Figures taken from a small sample of house fires in London over the last three years estimate that the cost of a severe fire is around £60,000. This means that each year severe fires cost £120 million in temporary accommodation and restoration work.  
Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority’s Community Safety Committee, Cllr Susan Hall, said:
“At a time when London is facing a major shortage in housing, it is shocking to know that so many homes are being lost to fire each year. Sadly, most of these fires are entirely preventable. Many people think that a fire will never happen to them but these figures show that it’s not worth taking the risk. Fires can, and do, cost people their entire homes and everything in them.

“If you love your home, get a working smoke alarm, never leave cooking unattended and switch off all electrical appliances when you’re not using them.”

Further research carried out showed that 21 per cent of severe fires were caused by electrical faults, 16 per cent were caused by cooking being left unattended and 10 per cent were caused by careless disposal of cigarettes.

Notes to editors:

The index showed that between October 2010 and September 2011 a third of all house fires were severe, some 2,257 fires. There was 2,335 significant fires and 1,656 moderate fires which are small fires with little fire spread.

This comes at a time of  a ‘growing housing crisis’ according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). It concludes that by 2025 London will have a housing gap of 325,000 homes with an estimated shortfall of 750,000 nationwide. The Government's Office for National Statistics says that by 2018 an extra 670,000 people will be living in the capital.