London Fire Brigade

Fire chiefs warn people to stop smoking or risk dying in a fire

20 October 2016

For the first time ever we're telling smokers to quit, or risk dying in a fire.

The stark warning comes as we release new London figures showing that a comparison between 2014/15 and 2015/16 highlighted a 25 per cent increase in smoking related fires and a 55 per cent increase in the number of people who died in those fires.
Smoking continues to be the largest cause of fatal fires and the third largest cause of accidental fires in the home.

Around four fires a day are linked to smoking, with around three people a week being injured.  In London alone, on average at least one person every month is killed by a smoking related fire.
The Brigade’s figures show that in London:

  • Last year there were 1359 smoking related fires, with 134 people being injured and 17 people killed by fire.
  • Ten people have been killed by fire in the capital so far this year as a result of the unsafe handling or careless disposal of smoking materials.
  • Almost a quarter of all smoking related fires in the home start in the bedroom, making it the most likely place for a smoking fire to start in the home.
  • Three per cent of smoking related fires start in the toilet or bathroom.
  • Four times as many people smoke as they do vape, but there are 255 times more smoking related fires, meaning vaping is a far safer option in terms of preventing fires.


'The statistics speak for themselves'

The Brigade’s warning comes during Stoptober, the country’s biggest stop-smoking campaign from Public Health England which encourages people to stop smoking for 28 days in a bid to quit for good.

Dave Brown, the London Fire Brigade’s Director of Operations, said:
“In the past we’ve shied away from telling people not to smoke, but the statistics speak for themselves so we’re joining health bosses in urging people to quit. The health impact of smoking is well documented, but many people don’t realise that smoking is the largest cause of fatal fires.
“Amongst the biggest mistakes people make is falling asleep with lit cigarettes, or they fail to dispose of cigarettes or matches properly, which can smoulder and cause fires.
“Ten people have died in fires in London caused by unsafe smoking this year, but you can easily take simple steps to ensure you don’t become another fire death statistic.”

Links between those most at risk of fire and those who suffer from the poorest health

The Brigade’s warning comes ahead of the launch of its first ever community health strategy, which will form part of its sixth London Safety Plan, expected to be rolled out in 2017, which aims to support health and social care providers in helping to keep people well.

The Brigade said that there are strong links between those most at risk of fire and those who suffer from the poorest health, including smokers.
The Brigade said that those most at risk from dying in smoking related fires are often vulnerable people like the elderly, those who have mobility problems or live alone. Fire chiefs are calling on those who manage specialised housing and assisted living accommodation to make it as safe as possible by taking steps like installing smoke alarms and sprinklers in the room where the person smokes.
The Brigade’s advice on preventing smoking related fires includes:

  • Never smoke in bed
  • Don’t smoke in a soft chair or sofa if you think you may fall asleep
  • Stub cigarettes out properly and always dispose of them carefully
  • Only smoke legally manufactured cigarettes
  • Make sure smoking materials are cold before emptying ashtrays – preferably wet them before throwing in the bin
  • Don’t smoke if you use medical equipment such as medical oxygen, flammable moisturising creams or an airflow pressure relief mattress.
  • Have at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home and in every room where a fire risk is present e.g where you smoke or where electrical equipment is left on.  The safest option is have alarms linked together and to any telecare type equipment were applicable . This will give the earliest warning if there is a fire in your home.