Common causes of house fires in UK

After the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower, the government updated fire safety orders. According to the latest version, i.e., UK Fire Safety Act 2021, multi-occupied buildings should undergo rigorous risk assessment regularly. 

The residents and responsible persons must ensure that the structure, external walls, and domestic premises of a shared building are risk-free in all aspects. To help you with this, here we’ve listed some of the most common causes of fires.

We’ve also shared the safety measures you can take to tackle each fire hazard. Let’s have a look.

6 Most Common Causes of House Fires & How to Prevent them?

1. Cooking & Cooking Appliances 

As per the most recent survey, cooking fires and cooking appliances lead the most common causes of house fires in the UK. These account for 46% of total house fires and 10% of deaths caused by house fires.

The most common ignition sources include toasters, ovens, cookers, hot plates, and unattended stove flames.

How to avoid it? 

  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking dishes that use oil or demand high temperatures. 
  • Children under 13 shouldn’t be allowed to cook their own meals or deal with heavy cooking equipment unsupervised.
  • Turn off any appliances (except the refrigerator!) when you’re not in the kitchen.
  • Clean cooking appliances regularly. Get rid of the grease build-up, as it’s quick to catch fire.
  • Keep flammable items away from hot appliances and stoves.
  • Avoid wearing loose clothes or flammable fabrics around the stove.

2. Candles

Every fire caused by candles almost always means death. At least, that’s what the data says.

Here’s what happens: You light a candle, and then after a while, you leave the room or fall asleep. In either case, the candle continues to burn, the wax melts, and the candle bends at odd angles, meaning it can ignite flammable substances around. 

If curtains, bedsheets, fabric decor, or paper catches fire, it spreads quite too rapidly. Extinguishing it in time is nearly impossible. For that very reason, it’s better to switch to electric alternatives.

But if you still want to light a candle for its scent or light, take the measures listed below.

How to avoid it?

  • Use a candle holder.
  • Cut the wick to an appropriate length so that it doesn’t drip here and there.
  • Never leave the candle unattended.
  • Keep candles 3-5 feet away from flammable material.
  • Don’t leave matches or candles within the reach of children.

3. Christmas Tree & Decor

A Christmas tree is extremely vulnerable to fire, especially live ones. 

Jim Shanley, who is a Travelers Risk Control Laboratory Fire Safety Engineer, says that a burning 6-foot tall live Christmas tree gives off the same energy as burning a full-sized automobile. It is also equivalent to burning 40,000 100-watt bulbs.

The same goes for artificial trees. Too much heat can set the tree on fire, which can spread quickly all over the rooms and then onto the rooms. 

How to avoid it?

  • Dry trees catch fire more quickly than fresh ones. So, keep watering your Christmas tree.
  • Trees get dry near radiators and heat vents. Avoid placing near these.
  • Avoid using multiple extension cords or connecting 3+ light strands.
  • Place the Christmas tree away from the fireplace, stove, stairs, and space heater.
  • According to NFPA, most Christmas tree fires were initiated by a candle. Keep candles a good distance away from Christmas trees.

4. Chemicals & Gases

Fires ignited by chemicals usually occur in commercial and industrial settings. However, homes using gasoline for cooking or natural gas are at high risk too. 

If there’s spilled gasoline on the counter or the ground and there’s a live heat source nearby. The gasoline will catch fire in under 30 minutes. 

Similarly, natural gas leaks can lead to house fires too. Whether there’s a fault in the gas line or you forgot to turn off the stove, the gas can gather up and make the nearby air combustible. If someone accidentally lights matches, an explosion will occur.

Other flammable chemicals around the house include:

  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Aerosols
  • Disinfectant Spray

How to avoid it?

  • Use a red labeled container to store gasoline.
  • Store flammable substances in a cool and dry place, i.e., away from heat sources like light and flames.
  • Get your gas pipelines checked by professionals every six months.
  • Check the stove before going to sleep at night.
  •  Keep containers tightly sealed to prevent spillage.

5. High Temperature

Recently, rising temperatures in the UK have also been listed in the most common causes of house fires. In July 2022, we witnessed the hottest temperature of all time, i.e., 40° Celsius. It led to the destruction of 14 homes in the central London area and a few cars.

The grass caught fire, and it wasn’t identified in time to be controlled. It quickly spread to burn most houses on the street. 

Shortly after, authorities reached the site and took all necessary measures to control the fire. But by this time, the damage caused was huge. 

Here’s what a house in Dagenham looked like after the fire:

common causes of house fires

How to avoid it?

  • Always keep functioning fire extinguishers in your house.
  • Ensure every floor in your house has a smoke detector
  • Keep reflective material away from direct sunlight. Examples of such materials include glass, metal, mirrors, etc.
  • Discard combustible rubbish.

6. Smoking

Nearly 9% of all house fires in the UK are caused by smoking materials like cigarettes and lighters. And 34% of all fire-related deaths are due to smoking-based fires. Like candles, smoking fires are difficult to escape.

How to avoid it?

  • Properly discard your cigarette into a non-flammable container, preferably an ashtray.
  • Don’t place ashtrays near flammable substances.
  • Supervise drunk or medicated smokers.
  • Avoid smoking near medical oxygen. It’s flammable.
  • Avoid smoking in bed. Ashes falling on bedsheets, blankets, carpets, mattresses, or clothing can lead to a fire.

A Smart Solution to Prevent House Fires

Since house fires are common in the UK and there’s a lot of homework required to battle the common causes of house fires, we recommend installing an efficient and fault-free alarm system at your place.

If you already have intruder alarms installed at your home, smoke detection is likely to be part of the security system. But for greater security, you can opt for dedicated fire alarm systems, such as that of C-tec and Apollo. Both of these are leading safety electronic equipment manufacturers in the UK.  

In case you need help with weighing your options, drop us a message. Security experts at 1-secure will help you choose the right option for your house & budget. We’ll be there for you every step of the way!

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