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Office sheds and bar conversions raise lockdown fire risks

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Shed and garage fires increased by 16% in 2020 compared with the previous year, figures show (Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Archive)
Shed and garage fires increased by 16% in 2020 compared with the previous year, figures show (Rui Vieira/PA) (PA Archive)

Lockdown life has seen Britons transform their sheds into offices and bars but the trend has also sparked a steep rise in outbuildings setting ablaze over the past year, figures suggest.

New figures from freedom of information requests by insurer Zurich have revealed that shed and garage fires increased by 16% in 2020 compared with the previous year.

It said the popularity in converting residential outbuildings – which include sheds, garages and conservatories – to home offices, bars and home gyms increased the potential fire risk.

The new data showed that 33 of the 45 UK regions to respond revealed a jump in outbuilding fires over the year.

As Brits take refuge in their garden sheds and garages, it appears to have sparked a rise in accidental blazes

Phil Ost, Zurich

It said there was a particular rise in Lancashire which saw a 58% increase, and Lincolnshire where outbuilding fires rose by 50%.

The increase comes after planning applications for garage conversions increased by a quarter over the past year.

Phil Ost, head of personal lines at Zurich, said: “Aside from storing gardening tools, our sheds and garages have become a haven to escape the stresses of family life, and for others a place to work.

Homeowners up and down the country have converted outbuildings into everything from bars and yoga studios, to gyms and offices.

“But as Brits take refuge in their garden sheds and garages, it appears to have sparked a rise in accidental blazes.

“Likewise, the huge increase in people buying pizza ovens and fire pits, which carry a fire risk if not extinguished correctly, could also account for the jump in outbuildings going up in smoke.”

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