London Fire Brigade

Electric heater warning as cold weather and firefighters set to strike

08 December 2014

As the cold weather bites and with the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) set to go on strike, we're warning people to take extra care with their electric heaters.

Fatals

A third of fatal electrical fires involve heaters and there have been 10 deaths in the last five winters.  
We're especially concerned about portable electric heaters as most fatal fires involving heaters are started when nearby clothes and furniture are ignited.

Strike

The chill is expected to hit London around the same time that the FBU are holding a 24 hour strike starting at 9am on Tuesday, 9 December.
 
London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said:

“As it gets colder, the temptation is to huddle closer to your heater but that could be a fatal mistake.  Shockingly, over two thirds of fatal fires involving heaters are caused by clothing or furniture being too close. People need to make sure their portable heaters are standing upright and kept well away from clothes, curtains or furniture.

”Portable heaters  should never be used to dry clothes or placed too close to bedding. This is even more important with the Fire Brigades’ Union set to strike.”

Electrical Safety First

The Electrical Safety First (ESF) – the UK charity dedicated to reducing deaths and injuries caused by electrical accidents – supports our advice.

Emma Apter at Electrical Safety First said:

“Having a warm home this winter is something everyone deserves, so we welcome electric heaters as a cheaper option at a time when energy costs are high. However, it is vital that the dangers associated with these items are understood – particularly as people are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk by using them in an unsafe way. By following this short, simple guidance, people can stay safe and stay warm this winter."

The Brigade’s warning for people to take extra care comes shortly after a serious house fire started by a halogen heater in Chelsea last week. The heater caught some nearby clothes alight, the owner quickly spotted this and believing that the fire was out she put the clothes in the bin. She then left but the bin caught fire and firefighters were called to deal with a kitchen blaze. Thankfully no one was injured.

Our new data shows that:

• Electric heaters have caused 427 fires, 10 deaths and nearly 80 injuries  over the past five winters
• Despite heaters starting only five per cent of the capital’s electrical fires, a third of fatal electrical fires involved heaters.
• The highest number of electrical heater fires were recorded in the winter of 2010-11, which saw the UK’s coldest December since 1910, with an average temperature of -1°C.
• Most of these fires are easily preventable and are caused by heaters falling over and setting clothes or furniture alight.

We're asking people not to become another statistic and to follow 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.

Ends

Notes to Editors

Heater fires statistics taken from December, January and February of , 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14. Local stats available on request.