London Fire Brigade

Cold snap could lead to more electric heater blazes Brigade warns

22 January 2016

New figures released today show that fires caused by electrical heaters have resulted in 12 deaths and nearly 231 injuries over the past five years.

With London in the middle of an Arctic chill firefighters are concerned that there could be an increased risk of dangerous heater blazes.

Nearly one heater fire a day

Our data shows that over the past five years there have been 1,505 fires caused by electric heaters, nearly one a day. Last year, a milder winter and our safety campaign, which highlighted the dangers of electrical heaters, led to a 12 per cent reduction in the number of electric heater fires.

By far our biggest concern are the risks associated with portable electric heaters. A previous Brigade report on electrical fires showed that heaters are disproportionately likely to be the cause of fires that result in people dying. Despite heaters starting only five per cent of the capital’s electrical fires, a third of fatal electrical fires involved heaters.

Winter of 2010-11

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.

The Brigade’s Director of Operations Dave Brown said;

“Portable electric heaters used properly will heat a room brilliantly but they should never be used to dry your smalls or socks.

“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.”

Heater advice

The Electrical Safety First – 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 portable heaters as a low cost option at a time when energy costs are spiralling. However, it is vital that the dangers associated with these items are understood – particularly as our research suggests that people are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk by using them in an unsafe way. By following our short, simple guidance, people can stay safe and stay warm this winter”.

Most of these fires are easily preventable and are caused by heaters falling over and catching clothes or furniture alight. We're asking people not to become another statistic by following their 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.