London Fire Brigade

Eastenders blaze sparks fire cigarette warning

15 September 2014

As millions will watch Alfie Moon start a fire by throwing a cigarette into a bin tonight, we have released new statistics about the devastating effects of fires caused by smoking.

Last year around three fires a day in London were linked to smoking and half of accidental fire deaths were related to careless  disposal of cigarettes.  

The Brigade is reinforcing its safety messaging on smoking and issued three top tips:

  • Make sure your cigarette is right out when you’ve finished with it
  • Use a proper ashtray that can't tip over and is made of a material that won't burn
  • We're urging all smokers to only buy cigarettes that meet European Union safety standards which have a special design that helps the cigarettes go out if they are left burning

It appears though that Alfie’s blaze was no accident with him deliberately starting the fire to solve his financial problems. It’s highly unlikely that Alfie’s insurance claim would work, as the Brigade’s fire investigators are highly skilled in working out the causes of around 2,500 fires a year.

Fire investigators interview people involved and look for certain patterns such as whether the bin had been moved, whether a person always disposed of a cigarette that way or had other items been used to help the spread.

London Fire Brigade Third Officer Dave Brown said: "Eastenders is set to show how dramatic and distressing fire can be and although the character’s motives seem deliberate there are still far too many people dying from accidental careless disposal of a cigarette.

"I urge all smokers to only buy cigarettes that meet European Union safety standards and never to throw smouldering cigarettes or hot ash into rubbish bins."

Deliberate fires dramatically decreased over the last decade

Although UK soaps might paint a different picture, deliberate fires have dramatically decreased by 90 per cent over the last decade. Last year there were 4,236 - around 81 each week - deliberate fires. In 2003/4 crews were attending, on average, 644 deliberate fires a week or 92 fires a day.

The Brigade has set up a number of schemes which have helped the reduction of deliberate fires. Firefighters are also working closely with local authorities to remove abandoned vehicles and fly tipping from the streets.

 

More information

Last year there were just under 11,000 accidental fires in London with 10 per cent of those linked to smoking. Despite the small number they have a devastating killer effect, with 15 of the 30 people who died in accidental fires being caused the by careless disposal of a cigarette.

More statistics on accidental fires can be found in our Report of accidental dwelling fires and fatalities for 2013/14.

The sharp decline in deliberate fires can also be attributed to the increasing scrap value of motor vehicles making it less likely that they will be abandoned and therefore subject to arson.

Figures produced by LetsRecycle.com show that the price for light iron has increased by £120 per tonne in the last 10 years. The metals recycling sector is worth around £5.6 billion to the UK economy.