Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service

87% rise in smoking related fires in the home during Covid-19

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has announced that there has been an 87% increase in fires caused by smoking materials during the Covid-19 pandemic so far, compared to the same period in 2019.

During the pandemic, NIFRS has attended 28 fires caused by smoking materials, compared to 15 during the same period last year. Accidental fires in the home have also increased from 327 in 2019 to 376 in 2020.

These striking statistics have been released as part of North South Fire Safety Week 2020, which begins today and runs for the week.

Fire Safety Week is organised in partnership with the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in the Republic of Ireland, and aims to promote fire safety, with the ultimate goal of zero accidental fire deaths.

In Northern Ireland, the theme of this year’s Fire Safety Week is ‘Safer Together through Covid-19’ – focusing on how the Fire & Rescue Service has adapted to respond to emergencies and protect the community during the pandemic, including continuing to work with partner agencies to provide fire safety advice.

Paddy Gallagher, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, explains: 

“There has been an increase in accidental fires as the community spend more time at home due to the pandemic. It is very concerning that there has been an 87% increase in fires caused by smoking materials during this time, and that cooking is still the leading cause of accidental fires in the home.

“Last week we attended a tragic house fire where a young girl lost her life, and our thoughts and sympathies are with her family and friends at this time. As the Fire & Rescue Service, we experience first-hand the devastation fires have on families, and the impact tragic incidents such as these have on our Firefighters, and we will continue to work tirelessly to reach the people most at risk to try and prevent fires from occurring.

“We are continuing to adapt how we provide our service through Covid-19 in order to reach those most at risk from fire. These changes include carrying out our free Home Fire Safety Checks while wearing PPE to ensure the safety of our Firefighters and the community, partnering with Volunteer Now to deliver our fire safety leaflets to the community and continuing to provide our safety advice online.

“It is also vitally important that the community is aware of the obvious causes of fire in their home, and the homes of their loved ones, and the steps they can take to prevent a fire from occurring.

“This Fire Safety Week I would encourage you to check in with your older neighbours and family members, and with those who are more at risk from fire – make sure they have a smoke alarm that they test weekly; that they are aware of the obvious dangers in their home; and that they have a fire escape plan if a fire should occur. If you are concerned about their safety, or they would like some more advice from us, please arrange a free Home Fire Safety Check for them via our website.  Please help us achieve our goal of zero accidental fire deaths. We can all be Safer Together.”

Minister of Health, Robin Swann, said:

“The theme of this year’s Fire Safety Week is ‘Safer Together through Covid-19’ and I again wish to place on record my thanks to the personnel of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service for their resilience and response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“During this Fire Safety week, I wish to remind and encourage everyone to follow the advice from our Fire and Rescue Service. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to help ensure our families and loved ones remain safe from the risk of fire. Focus on the practical steps and measures which can be taken to reduce the risks of fire in our homes. Please support others, help them to take all necessary fire safety precautions and make use of the free Home Fire Safety Checks available from the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service which are now being conducted via telephone and, where a face to face visit is required, with Firefighters wearing the appropriate PPE.’’

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