London Fire Brigade warns heating fires could soar this winter

Images above: Portable electric heater; electric blanket

Firefighters say check portable heaters and electric blankets carefully before use

London Fire Brigade say they are concerned that heating-related fires could soar to levels not seen for over a decade.

December 2010 saw record-breaking temperatures which froze much of the UK, beating the 1982 record for coldest winter. During 2010, there were more than 290 fires caused by heating equipment.

Last year crews attended around 40 per cent fewer heating fires in homes compared with the peak in 2010, but as the Met Office predicts it could be a colder winter than normal and heating costs rise, the Brigade is concerned people will turn to unsafe methods to heat their homes.

Popular choices for cost-effective methods to stay warm at night include portable heaters and electric blankets, but the Brigade is urging caution over using these appliances, particularly while sleeping. Last week a man was taken to hospital after a house fire in Wembley caused by materials placed too close to a halogen heater.

London firefighters are encouraging people to carry out some simple safety checks before using electric blankets. This includes checking for any wear and tear by seeing if any wires are visible or poking through the fabric, looking for any scorch marks and listening to see if the control makes a buzzing sound when switched on.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said:

“We know that people may want to use portable heaters to heat just one room or use electric blankets in bed. It’s really important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure these items are safety registered and in good working order.

“If you’re using these items around children always supervise them carefully and place heaters somewhere where they won’t be accidentally knocked over and away from anything that could catch fire. “

Firefighters’ tips to stay safe while you stay warm

  • Don’t place portable heaters where they will block your escape route or where they might be knocked over. Take particular care if you have young children or pets.
  • Unplug heaters when you go out or go to bed.
  • Make sure heaters are well maintained and in good working order.
  • Close internal doors at night to reduce the spread of fire and smoke if a fire started.
  • Register your electrical products so you’ll be informed if a problem is found with it.
  • Store electric blankets flat, rolled up or loosely folded to prevent damaging the internal wiring.
  • If your electric blanket gets wet, don’t use it, and never switch it on to dry it.
  • Check regularly for wear and tear and replace electric blankets at least every 10 years.
  • Always use the manufacturer’s instructions for your electrical products and only use it as intended.
  • Make sure your home is fitted with working smoke alarms, test them regularly and fit a heat alarm in the kitchen.
  • Ensure everyone in the home knows what to do in the event of a fire.

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