London Fire Brigade

Fire safety chief issues parents’ warning

18 June 2010

Research released today to coincide with National Child Safety Week, has revealed that children cause nearly 1400 fires every year in the capital with some started deliberately and others coming as a result of playing with fire, cooking or smoking.

Around one in ten fires in London (all fires) is started by a child but children can also be the victim of fires with over 1600 children and young people injured in the last five years. Now, London Fire Brigade’s fire safety chief is warning parents that failure to educate children about the dangers of fire and playing with fire could have tragic consequences.

 “Simple advice prevents fires and saves lives,” said Assistant Commissioner Andy Hickmott. “Something as easy as practising a fire escape plan with your children could make all the difference if a fire starts in your home. It’s also so important that parents don’t leave matches and lighters where young children can find them.”

“Hundreds of young people are injured by fires every year and this can also leave long term mental scars, so please don’t let this happen to your children.”

London Fire Brigade has carried out research into the way that all the accidental fires in the home caused by children are started*:

  • One in four of all the accidental fires caused by children was due to children playing with fire (matches/lighters etc)
  • Around four in ten of these fires was caused by children using cooking appliances
  • Other regular causes of accidental fires started by children include candles and tea lights (nearly 7%) and carelessly discarded cigarettes (6%).
  • Nearly half (45%) of all accidental home fires started by children start in the kitchen and a further third (33%) in a bedroom.

Even young children (under fives) can take in basic fire safety information. They may hide rather than run away if they see or start a fire, so parents should explain that fire is dangerous and make sure children know that they should tell an adult straight away.

Older children can have fun getting involved in safety, from helping to test your smoke alarm every week, to planning and practicing an escape route. They should know the fastest and safest way out of your home (including where door and window keys are kept) and understand what they should do and where they should take refuge if they can’t get out – a room with a window and flat roof outside it for instance - then how to call 999.

Parents can play their part by never leaving children alone with candles, matches, lighters or cooking and looking out for signs that their children could be displaying fire setting behaviour or a fascination with fire.

London Fire Brigade’s work with young people:

  • Our Schools Team officers educate around 100,000 primary school pupils every year, delivering potentially life saving advice.

  • The Juvenile Firesetters Intervention Scheme works directly with children aged two to 17 years who set fires and has had over 2500 families referred to its service, with 92% of the children not returning to firesetting behaviour after intervention.

  • Other youth programmes like LiFE and our Cadets scheme pass on fire safety advice and explain the consequences of antisocial behaviour like arson or hoax calls.

Notes for editors:

  • *Stats used are collected from the last 5 years (2005/6 to 2009/10) and feature fires caused by children from 0-17.
  • Injury data is from 0-19s.
  • In the last five years young people (0-17 yrs) have caused 6719 fires in London, with 1942 started by accident and 4777 started deliberately.
  • In the last five years, children started 1548 accidental fires in London homes.
  • National child safety week runs from 28 to 24 June http://www.childsafetyweek.org.uk/
  • For information and games for children visit http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/GamesAndActivities.asp