7 December 2021
The winter period from December until the end of February is a high-risk time of year for accidental house fires.
Over winter, and especially during Christmas, many additional fire dangers are introduced into the home, such as candles, Christmas tree lights, open fires and portable heaters.
The top cause of accidental fires in the home during this time is cooking- followed by electrics and careless use of smoking materials. Personal behaviours such as alcohol consumption can also be a factor in the likelihood of a fire occurring.
Suzanne Fleming, Group Commander, NIFRS, explains:
“This year 9 people have tragically lost their lives as a result of an accidental house fire. This is an increase from 5 people in 2020.
“This increase is especially concerning as this year’s deaths occurred before this high risk winter period, when the risk of house fires increases. Therefore I am asking the community to be especially aware of how to stay safe from fire in their homes during the winter months and festive period.
“It is vitally important that you have working smoke alarms. Be aware of Christmas fire hazards – such as candles, Christmas tree lights, and overloaded sockets – and make sure they are being used safely. As the cost of your heating may have gone up this year, you may want to light open fires that haven’t been lit for a while or use portable heaters. Make sure a suitably trained person has serviced your chimney, flue or appliance before you use it, and keep heaters away from soft furnishings and Christmas decorations.
“Please also check in with your older family, friends and neighbours, and those who are isolated in our community, and make sure they too are doing all they can to stay safe from fire. If you feel that you, or someone you know, could benefit from additional advice from us, then please apply for a free Home Fire Safety Check on our website www.nifrs.org.
“We want you to enjoy yourself over the coming weeks by following our fire safety advice and ensuring you’re prepared for winter. By looking after your own safety, and the safety of those around you, it allows for us all to be ‘Safer Together.’
“Happy Christmas and stay safe in 2022.”
Christmas Fire Safety Advice:
- Ensure you have a working smoke alarm fitted to each floor in your property, and test it so you know it works.
- Make sure Christmas lights are in good working order- look out for damaged or frayed leads, and check for safety marks such as the BS Kite mark to ensure the lights meet the appropriate standard. Turn off lights at night or when you are leaving the house.
- Don’t overload electrical plug sockets. Some indicators of overloaded sockets include scorch marks or blackness around the socket or plug, sparks coming from a plug or appliance, and the smell of hot plastic near the plug or socket.
- Never place candles near your Christmas tree or furnishings, and don’t leave them burning unattended.
- Decorations can burn easily – don’t attach them to lights or heaters.
- Remember the risk of accidents is greater after alcohol is consumed.
- Keep candles, lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
- Don’t leave cooking unattended, and don’t cook if you are tired, have been drinking alcohol or have taken medication that could make you drowsy; you could easily fall asleep.
- Keep flammable items such as oven mitts, tea towels and cables away from the cooker top.
- Ensure your bedtime routine includes switching of electrics including Christmas lights, portable heaters, and any extra charging leads. Extinguish candles and cigarettes, and close doors to protect your escape route.
- Make a fire escape plan and discuss with your family. Keep your escape route clear from Christmas trees, decorations and presents.
- Take the time to check on elderly relatives and neighbours this Christmas – make sure they are fire safe.