London Fire Brigade

Fire chief’s warning as Queen Vic burns

07 September 2010

Millions of people will watch the Queen Vic burn on BBC drama Eastenders this Thursday and the capital’s Fire Commissioner is warning Londoners that serious fires can also be a reality for far too many people.

Figures released today show that 50 people died in accidental fires last year (2009), an increase of nearly 20 per cent on the previous year.

The total number of accidental fires in the home also grew, with fire crews called out to tackle these around 120 times a week on average (6252 in 2009).

Eleven people died in fires started deliberately last year.

Research into the causes of accidental fires shows that most could be avoided if people were more aware of how to protect themselves. Over half of fires in the home start in the kitchen, often caused by cookers or pans left unattended. Faulty electrical equipment and candles are other regular culprits, and every year people die as a result of failing to put out cigarettes properly or falling asleep while smoking.

And regardless of whether fires start by accident or deliberately, smoke alarms save many lives every year by warning people of a fire while they still have time to escape and call 999. Amazingly many homes firefighters attend to put out a fire still don’t have this £5 device.

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson wants every Eastenders viewer to follow three simple tips that could save their lives:

1)      Get a smoke alarm and check it regularly to make sure the battery works – it could save your life.

2)      Make an escape plan - talk to your family about what you would do if a fire starts in your home, ensuring everyone knows where door and window keys are kept.

3)      Find out more – visit a website like London Fire Brigade’s and learn about how to protect yourself.

Ron Dobson said: “Eastenders is set to show how dramatic and distressing fire can be, but while we quickly forget about the latest television plot, the devastation of a serious house fire can stay with us for years. If everyone gets a smoke alarm, checks it regularly and also makes an escape plan we can make a real difference and prevent serious injury and deaths.”

Notes for editors

National statistics

The total number of fire fatalities in England in 2009–10 (financial year) was 328.

The number of fatalities in England in accidental home fires in 2009–10 was 210.

In 2009–10, the number of non-fatal casualties in fires in England was 8,500.

Figures taken from the Government Fire Statistics Monitor released on 20 August.