London Fire Brigade

Firefighters safety warning for ‘Beast from the East’

26 February 2018

With parts of the UK set to be colder than the Arctic Circle when the ‘Beast from the East’ hits the country this week, the capital’s firefighters are urging Londoners to take care.

Firefighters are concerned that they may see a spike in the number of house fires as people take extreme measures to stay warm during the snow and freezing weather. They are particularly concerned about vulnerable and elderly people using electric heaters, which can easily cause fires if not used carefully and are asking people to keep an eye on family, friends and neighbours.

The Brigade recently published figures showing that of the 568 fires in London involving either an electric fire or a gas heater since 1 January 2013, six people lost their lives and 185 people were injured.

Keep an eye out for loved ones

Group Manager, Mark Hazelton, said: "We’re urging people to keep an eye out for their elderly or vulnerable family members, friends and neighbours during the freezing weather this week. It is sadly those who are less able to get out of their homes that are particularly prone to having fires and are less able to escape if a fire does break out.

“We could see a rise in the number of fires caused by heaters as people take extreme measures to stay warm. If anyone you know is using a heater to stay warm, please make sure they aren’t sitting too close as it’s easy for clothes and blankets to catch fire. The same goes for curtains and furniture.

“You could prevent someone from being injured or killed in a fire, just by making sure they know how to stay safe when using a heater.”

The Brigade said firefighters have in the past attended blazes caused by people drying clothes on or too close to electric heaters.

Tips to stay safe during cold snap

We have issued three top heater safety tips:

  1. Keep heaters away from clothes, curtains and furniture
  2. Don’t put anything on the heater or use it to dry or warm clothes
  3. Secure heaters against a wall to stop them falling over, or fit wall-mounted heaters

It is also important to get boilers and fires regularly serviced and not to block vents or flues as this can cause a deadly build up of carbon monoxide.

Smoke alarms save lives

The Brigade also stressed the need for working smoke alarms and said that homes need multiple and linked smoke alarms to stay as safe as possible. Ideal spots for smoke alarms include rooms where you leave electrical equipment like satellite boxes, computers or heaters on; any room where you sleep, any room where you smoke, and anywhere you charge your mobile or laptop.
Mark Hazelton said: “As a minimum you should have smoke alarms on every floor - in the hallways and the rooms you use the most, plus a heat alarm in the kitchen. They should be linked together and tested regularly.”

You can more read about how to stay safe using heaters .

If you know of someone who would benefit from a free home fire safety visit, particularly if they are elderly or have mobility problems, you can book one in via the Brigade’s website.