London Fire Brigade

Big freeze increases house fire risk

05 January 2010

With forecasters predicting the coldest winter for 100 years, London’s firefighters are reminding people to take great care in their homes during the big freeze.

London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner for Community Safety, Andy Hickmott, said: “When the temperature drops and it’s freezing outside, the chance of you having a house fire increases. Sadly, you’re also more likely to die in a fire during the winter months. That’s why we’re reminding everyone to take great care with items like electric heaters, candles, electric blankets and cookers.

Try not to leave electric heaters on over night and if you leave the house make sure heaters are switched off”.

AC Hickmott’s top tips for staying safe in your home during the cold weather:

• Install smoke alarms – they could save your life
• Ensure all objects are kept clear of heaters
• Ensure all electrical appliances are in safe working order, replacing frayed cords and broken plugs and keeping them free from dust
• Make sure candles are used with caution and never left unattended
• Always put out cigarettes carefully and only empty ashtrays when the contents are cool. Never smoke in bed.
• Don’t overload plugs – use multi boxes with circuit breakers where possible
• Always turn off electric blankets before getting into bed
• Make sure electric blankets are serviced regularly
• Never leave cooking or heaters unattended


Notes to editors

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Key statistics on fires during winter

Statistics from the London Fire Brigade show that:
• More accidental, fatal house fires occur in the winter months (November-January), than at any other time of the year.
• Over half of the people who die in fires do not have a working smoke alarm.
• Older and more vulnerable people, such as those with mobility problems, are much more likely to die in house fires. Just over half of all those who die in accidental house fires are over the age of 60.
• Those who carelessly dispose of their smoking materials (ie cigarettes, cigars, tobacco) are much more likely to die in accidental house fires.
• The vast majority of fatal house fires are started by smoking materials (35%), followed by heating appliances, ie electric heaters, (14%), followed by cooking appliances, ie ovens, cookers (12%).
• Accidental, fatal house fires are most likely to start in the living room (32% of fatal house fires start here), followed by the bedroom (31%) and the kitchen (18%).