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New safety advice amid fears rising energy bills could lead to more heating-related fires

heating at home
LFB warns of more heating-related firesAndrii Koval - Getty Images

The London Fire Brigade are urging households to take extra care when using portable heaters, wood burners or open fires this autumn and winter.

The Brigade recognises that people are likely to turn to alternative – and cheaper – fuel methods during the cold spell as the cost of living pressures deepen. However, they have asked for individuals to stay diligent.

LFB's Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: 'Fire caused by heaters, open fires and electrical items can be very intense and spread very quickly. There is a risk that some people, in a bid not to pay more, may end up paying an even higher price – through a fire that causes them serious injury or even costs them their life.

The Brigade have said they will continue to work with communities to reduce the risk of fires and keep energy costs down.

'For example, we know that people may want to use portable heaters to heat just one room, or run their dishwashers and washing machines overnight to take advantage of cheaper electricity costs.

'These types of appliances do come with a potential fire risk so we would encourage people to use them safely, ensure they are safety registered, have working smoke alarms fitted throughout their home and know their exit plan in the event of a fire, particularly at night.'

In 2021 alone, there were a total of 256 heating related fires across London. Three people died as a result and 35 people were injured. And so far this year, the Brigade has attended 148 of these types of fire, with most taking place during colder months.

In May, a house fire in south-west London was caused by combustible items being too close to an open fire. The resident had been burning timber on an open fire in his living room to heat his home. He was taken to hospital and the property sustained significant damage. And earlier in April, a woman living in Edgware sadly died after an electric heater got caught under her recliner chair.

Firefighters’ tips for using portable heaters:

  • Make sure heaters are well maintained and in good working order.

  • Check that your heater isn't on a recall list.

  • Never install, repair or service appliances yourself.

  • Keep heaters away from clothes, curtains and furniture.

  • Never use a heater for drying your clothes.

  • Sit one metre away from a heater as it could set light to your clothes or chair.

  • Before attempting to move your heater, turn it off and allow it to cool first.

Safety tips for log burners and open fires:

  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained.

  • Have your chimney swept by a specialist – once a year for coal, twice if burning logs.

  • Use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers.

  • Keep clothing and fabric well away from open fires and log burners.

  • Watch out for children and pets – supervise them carefully and use fireguards.

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