London Fire Brigade

Fire chief concerned about festive fires during strikes

24 December 2013

The most senior fire officer in London today expressed concern about house fires during the festive period, following the announcement that members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will be on strike on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The Brigade has today launched it’s Christmas safety campaign, Oh Christmas Tree, which aims to remind people to take steps to prevent fires at home, including taking care with candles, fairy lights and when cooking. The campaign features a stark image of a Christmas tree that was destroyed in a fire caused by a candle being left too close.

The strikes, which will be closely followed by another strike on 3rd January, are over a dispute between the FBU and government over reforms to the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.

London Fire Commissioner, Ron Dobson, said: “Millions of people will be at home celebrating Christmas and New Year when the Fire Brigades Union goes on strike.

“Contingency plans are in place but we’re urging people to take care, to be sensible, and to remember that fire brigades could be very busy during the strikes. Make sure you keep candles well away from anything that could catch fire and switch off fairy lights when you go out or to bed.

“If you’re preparing a festive feast, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on cooking to prevent kitchen fires, that way your turkey will be cooked to perfection and you’ll avoid having a fire.”

The Brigade said that the most common cause of fires during the Christmas period is cooking. Between 20th and 30th December each year there are, on average, 84 cooking fires in the capital.

The last five years has seen an average 28 fires in London on Christmas Day –10 per cent more than the usual daily average.

The Brigade offered the following festive safety advice:

1) Never leave your cooking unattended – burnt turkey could be the least of your worries if you’re not careful
2) Blow out candles when you leave the room
3) Make sure you fully extinguish any cigarettes in an ash tray – don’t drop them into a bin, especially if the bin has old wrapping paper in it
4) If you’ve had a few drinks, don’t try and do any cooking. Have some leftovers or leave it to a sober person to cook
5) Don’t fall asleep while cooking, smoking, or using candles

The Brigade said that it will be tweeting Christmas safety tips and will again be reminding people to get takeaways rather than embarking on drunken cooking. It also reminded people to be really careful if using fireworks. There is more information about firework safety on the Brigade’s website.

Ends

Notes to editors

For high res images contact Emma Gibbs on 020 8536 5922.

About the strikes and London Fire Brigade’s contingency arrangements

As in previous strikes, the Brigade will have 27 fire engines based at strategic locations and contingency crews will deal with emergencies across London during the strikes but it will not replicate a normal service and some less serious incidents, like fire alarms and bin fires, will not be attended.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members will be taking industrial action again on:
• Christmas Eve, Tuesday 24th December – 7pm until midnight
• New Year’s Eve, Tuesday 31st December -  6.30pm until 12.30am
• Friday 3rd January – 6.30am until 8.30am

During the strike firefighters will attend:

Serious fires –  like those in Londoners’ homes – confirmed by a 999 call
Fires that involve gas cylinders or hazardous substances.
Explosions
Vehicle fires or boat fires
Fires at railway stations and rail and road tunnels or fires involving people in underground tunnels
Aircraft or train crashes
Road traffic collisions
Collapsed structures

During the strike firefighters may not be able to attend:

Grass fires and other outdoor fires such as trees, hedges or undergrowth alight.
Rubbish fires (including fires in bins and skips) and fires on open ground.
Animal rescues (these will be referred to the RSPCA).
People shut in lifts (owners of buildings are responsible for ensuring arrangements are in place to release people from faulty lifts).
Flooding Automatic fire alarms – a fire engine will only be sent when the fire has been confirmed by a 999 call.