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Brigade issues electric heater fire safety warning

29 November 2017

THREE SERIOUS fires caused by heaters in recent weeks has caused the London Fire Brigade (LFB) to issue an electric heater warning.

As temperatures drop and forecasters say it will be feeling very cold, firefighters are warning people that snuggling up close to the fire can be dangerous. Our new figures show that seven people have died in electrical heater fires in the last five years and 164 people have suffered injuries.

Fires typically start when bedding, blankets or clothes are placed too close to heaters. LFB assistant commissioner for fire safety Dan Daly said: "When it gets cold, instinctively, we might want to pull heaters up close but blankets and duvets or other material getting too close to heaters is a dangerous fire risk. 

"Shockingly almost 60% of fatal fires involving heaters are caused by clothing or furniture being too close. People need to make sure their portable heaters are standing upright and kept well away from objects and materials that might cause a fire.  Never use one to dry your clothes. Those with mobility issues are especially at risk of tripping or falling onto a heater so placing them at a safe distance is all the more important.

"Although the stats focus on electric heaters we should not forget that other heaters such as gas and open fires carry an equal fire risk if not used correctly. Homeowners should always make sure their heaters are checked regularly and well maintained. "

The Brigade’s advice for portable heaters includes:

  • Put your heater on a level surface, well away from anything that could knock it over;
  • Sit at least one metre away from a heater as it could set light to your clothes or chair, especially if you fall asleep. Make sure its kept clear of any paper, furniture or curtains. Never use it to dry your clothes;
  • Never leave your portable heater unattended whilst in use or while you are asleep;
  • Before attempting to move your heater, turn it off and allow it to cool first;
  • Never power a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause fires;
  • Regularly inspect your heater for damage and deterioration. If it isn’t in good condition, don’t use it; and
  • Avoid second hand heaters. Make sure you buy from recognised manufacturers and retailers.

LFB data shows over the past five years, 819 fires were caused by electrical heaters. The biggest concern is the risks associated with portable electric heaters. Despite heaters only starting about three per cent of the capital's electrical fires, a third of electrical fires that resulted in a fatality involved heaters. The highest number of electrical heater fires recorded over the winter months in the past five years was in 2012/2013 - one of the worst winters on record.