Last updated: 09/07/2018, 6:17 PM

Firefighters called to high numbers of large fires during London heatwave

05/07/2018 10:08
Safety warnings

Cigarettes have caused a spate of large fires in London during the recent heatwave, prompting firefighters to urge Londoners to take more care in the hot weather, especially when discarding cigarettes.

20 large fires in London

In the last two weeks, there have been 20 large fires in London, with each needing more than 35 firefighters to tackle them. Many are believed to have been started by cigarettes but also barbecues, the sun reflecting off mirrors and other sun related causes.

Deputy Commissioner Tom George, London Fire Brigade’s Director of Operations, said:

“A heatwave often causes a surge in fires but there are some simple things people should do to prevent them. Everyone has a role to play in preventing fires, so be careful with how you put out cigarettes and matches, and butts should be fully stubbed out and not tossed into bins, onto the floor or out of windows.


BBQ safely

We all love a barbecue in the sun, lets keep it that way.

“Barbecues on balconies are also a very serious fire risk. Tiny embers from the coals and food float away, catching curtains, dry grass verges and trees. You cannot barbecue on a balcony safely and you are putting everyone in your building at risk.

“While Brigade crews have coped well with the recent spate of large fires and we always stand ready to help you, we would rather they didn’t happen in the first place. Everyone can help prevent fires from starting in the first place and I want Londoners to note our fire safety tips.” 

Sunshine safety tips

  • Never use a barbecue indoors or on a balcony
  • Position your barbecue on level ground and keep it well away from anything that may catch fire (sheds, fences, trees, tents etc.)
  • Keep children, pets and garden games away from the barbecue
  • Have a bucket of water or sand nearby for emergency use
  • Never use a barbecue indoors or in an unventilated space as there is a real risk of creating dangerous Carbon Monoxide gas
  • Never leave camp fires or barbeques unattended and extinguish them properly after you have finished using them
  • Clear away bottles, glasses and any broken glass to avoid them magnifying the sun and starting a fire
  • Dispose of smoking materials such as cigarettes safely
  • Keep mirrors and shiny objects out of sunlight as sun rays can refract through them and cause fires


Among the most prominent fires was a balcony fire in West Hampstead on Tuesday, July 3, which fire investigators believe was caused by a cigarette which had not been properly extinguished in a plant pot. The fire destroyed five balconies at the block of flats in Heritage Lane.

The previous evening, Monday, July 2, firefighters were called to two separate fires just several hundred metres apart in Walthamstow, with both caused by carelessly discarded cigarettes.

In the first fire in Broughton Place, three flats sustained fire damage and two people were rescued by firefighters. Just three and a half hours later, firefighters were called to a roof fire in Billet Road and two people were rescued by firefighters using a ladder.

Firefighters have also been called to a number of grass fires across the capital and also fires caused by sunlight refracting on shiny objects including mirrors.

During England’s tense World Cup match against Colombia on Tuesday evening, firefighters were called to a house fire in Abbeville Road, Clapham, which was caused by sunlight refracting on a mirror.

Londoner’s are also urged to ensure they use barbecues safely and not to barbecue indoors, on roofs or on balconies as Brigade figures reveal firefighters have attended nine barbecue figures in the last two weeks.