Fire Safety: How to Avoid the Most Common Types of House Fire


According to the most recent statistics issued by the Home Office, a total of 37,711 incidences of fire in dwellings where attended by the fire services in the year 2017/2018. Of these, 33,797 (89.6%) where caused by an accident and just 3,914 (10.4%) were started deliberately.

Accidental fires were the cause of 4,805 non-fatal casualties and, unfortunately, 243 deaths.

The most common causes of fire for the same period were found to be:

  • Misuse of Equipment or Appliances
  • Faulty Appliances and Leads
  • Placing Articles too close to Heat
  • Careless Handling of Fire and/or Hot Substances
  • Faulty Fuel Supplies
  • Chip/Fat Pan
  • Playing with Fire

In this guide, we take you through some important safety advice issued by the Fire Services in the UK to help you prevent your home from becoming another statistic.

Image credit: Pixabay

Advice on Avoiding Accidental Fire in the Home

As per the above data, almost 9 out of every 10 fires attended by the fire services are caused by an accident and, in most cases, could be avoided.

Misuse of Equipment or Appliances

The benefits of living in an age with so much technology at our fingertips come with some drawbacks; one of which is the amount of electrical power required to charge these devices.

Many of us live in homes that were built more than a few decades ago when our demands for electrical power were considerably lower. Running extension cables and using adapter plugs to increase the number of appliances we plug in is quite common in the modern home.

Unfortunately, this can lead to serious consequences with an excessive electrical load being placed on the inadequate infrastructure of the wiring.

Overheating in appliances and wiring is one of the most common causes of primary ignition in dwelling fires.

In most instances, this can be avoided by ensuring that you:

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Faulty Appliances and Leads

Alongside the above advice, it is essential that you never use equipment that is faulty. This can include appliances or devices that have frayed or damaged electrical cords as well as equipment that is showing evidence of being faulty.

Placing Articles too close to Heat

Where you have any source of heat in the home, be this an open fire, wood burning stove, candle or electric heater, it is essential that you ensure the surrounding area is free from combustible materials. It may seem like a sensible idea to dry your laundry by an electric heater but the heat generated combined with a low combustion point of some fabrics can quickly lead to disaster.

With open fires, the hazards are magnified as spitting logs or falling coals can easily ignite surrounding hearth rugs or other materials stored nearby.

Always keep heat sources free of any objects which could catch fire and never leave open fires and flames unattended.

Careless Handling of Fire and/or Hot Substances

Be aware that, when carrying fire (candles, naked flames etc) or hot substances, there is a risk of causing an accidental fire. Always ensure that the working area around your kitchen (or workshop, garage etc) is free of trip hazards and that you have a clear route planned in your head before attempting to move hot substances.

You should also ensure that you are wearing suitable protective clothing, that your hair is tied back and that there is no risk of loose clothing interfering with the flame or substance.

Always keep young children out of the kitchen area when you are cooking. As well as a risk of fire they can also be at risk of burns and scalding from hot pans, ovens and other items of cookware.

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Faulty Fuel Supplies

The main cause of fire when ‘Faulty Fuel Supplies’ are cited as the primary ignition are gas stoves, gas mains and portable gas heaters.

In order to prevent accidental fire from any of these sources is not ensure that you have them regularly checked by a certified Gas Safe engineer and that you have a carbon monoxide detector to alert you to any potential fault in the fuel lines.

Chip/Fat Pan

If you do use hot oil to deep fat fry food then you should always ensure that you:

  • do not fill your pan more than 1/3 full.
  • never leave the pan unattended.
  • make sure the food you add to the oil is dry; water can cause the fat to explode.
  • do not use the oil if it is smoking; turn down the heat and wait for the oil to cool down a little.

The safest way to cook using oil is via an electric deep fat fryer that is fitted with an electric thermostat.

Remember that the fat will stay hot for some time after you have finished heating it so always take care when moving it from the hob (see Careless Handling, above).

Lastly, if your chip pan or deep fat fryer catches fire never use water to try and put out the flames. Adding water to an oil fire will cause an explosion. Instead, try to turn off the heat if it is safe to do so and do not try to put out the fire yourself. Get yourself and your family to safety, close the door and contact the emergency services.

Playing with Fire

If you have children, you should ensure that you teach them the dangers of playing with fire and always ensure that matches and lighters are kept well out of their reach.

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Smoking and Vaping

Whilst smoking is not on the list of most common causes of fire in the home, there are still many incidences of fire attended by the emergency services each year where cigarettes, cigars and pipes have been the primary cause. The London Fire Brigade report that 6.3% of all fires smoking related whilst 26.1% of fire deaths are smoking-related.

If you are, or someone in your home is, a smoker then it is essential that you follow these important safety tips:

  • Never smoke in bed and avoid smoking when seated on sofas or armchairs, particularly if you are sleepy.
  • Smoking when tired or if you have been drinking or on prescription drugs should be avoided.
  • Always use a proper ashtray to dispose of your cigarette and make sure you have stubbed it out before leaving it unattended.
  • Never balance a lit cigarette on the edge of anything, even an ashtray. When they burn down, they can tip off a surface.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
  • Always empty ashtrays carefully and ensure that they are not still burning when you do so.

Of course, it’s always safer to smoke outside but, when you dispose of your lit cigarettes etc, always ensure they are safely extinguished and placed in a fireproof receptacle.

When it comes to vaping, there has been a rise in the number of reported incidences where e-cigarettes have been the primary cause of a fire. So, whilst dropping a vape device on the floor when you fall asleep is definitely safer than a lit cigarette, there are precautions you can take to reduce the risk of fire from these devices.

  • Avoid charging your vape device overnight.
  • Never use a vape device that is showing signs of being faulty such as overheating.
  • Always switch your vape device off when not in use.
  • Keep vape devices out of the reach of children.
Image Credit: Pixabay.

The Importance of Early Detection in Fire Safety

For the period ending November 2018, 21% of fatalities caused by domestic fires in England occurred in homes where no smoke alarm was present.

Emergency Escape Plan for Fires in the Home

Your chances of surviving a fire in the home are significantly increased by early detection as well as having an emergency escape plan that all of your family are familiar with.

Your plan should include:

  • Closing the doors in your downstairs living area each night before going to bed. Fires spread quickly so keeping doors closed can buy you and your family valuable extra time to escape.
  • In the event of fire, you should evacuate your property at once. Do not stop to gather your valuables, get dressed or find your family pets.
  • In the event of a fire, passageways can quickly fill with dense smoke so teach your family that they must stay low to the floor when leaving the building.
  • Stairways, corridors and exits should always be kept free from trip hazards and remain unblocked.
  • Whilst security should remain paramount, you should have at least two routes to escape. Ensure that any keys needed to access your emergency escape route are kept close by.
  • If you live in a two-storey house (or higher) then you may wish to purchase an escape latter for each bedroom that is occupied.
  • Closed doors should not be opened without first feeling the door to see if it is warm. Fire needs oxygen to survive and, in a closed, room a fresh supply of air can cause an intensifying of the flames.

Lastly, you should always follow the rule that once you have made your escape and are out of the property that you never re-enter the building. Have an established meeting point such as a neighbours house or at the top of your driveway and call the emergency services immediately.

Connect 4 Monitored Security and Fire Safety

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All of our heat, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are manufactured using the highest-quality technology and can be linked to a manned monitoring station to ensure the quickest response is made to your home emergency.

If you’d like to know more about these vital life-preserving systems then contact one of our professional team today to discuss your needs.