Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service

Winter Warning as Fire Fatalities Rise This Year

The aftermath of a recent fire in Belfast, believed to have been caused by an electric blanket. Electric blankets are one of many additional fire risks often introduced to homes over the winter and Christmas period.

3 December 2020

As Northern Ireland enters a high risk period for accidental fires in the home, statistics released by Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) today show more people have already died in accidental fires in the home this year than during all of last year.

4 fatal accidental fires in the home have already been recorded in 2020/21, with the high risk winter months still ahead. In 2019/20, 3 people tragically died in accidental fires in the home, with 2 of those deaths occurring between December and February. Over the last 5 years over 40% of all fatal accidental fires in the home occurred during winter months.

The statistics were released as NIFRS launched its Winter Safety Campaign, aimed at warning the public about the increased risk of accidental fires in the home during the winter months. Accidental fires in the home are often caused by cooking, electrics and smoking materials. Over winter and especially during the Christmas period, many additional fire dangers are introduced such as candles, fairy lights, open fires, portable heaters and electric blankets.

As part of the Winter Safety Campaign NIFRS is reminding the public that they can take simple steps to keep themselves safe, and reduce the risk of tragedy. They can do this by following the simple STOP fire message-

Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Paddy Gallagher said

“These worrying statistics are a stark reminder of how important it is that we all take our home fire safety extremely seriously, especially in the high risk winter months. We know that the risk of accidental fires in the home has been higher this year as so many of us are spending more time indoors to adhere to the COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’d encourage any member of the public who is over 50, who has impaired mobility, a disability or a health condition that would impact on their ability to acknowledge or respond to an emergency in their home, to contact us to arrange a free Home Fire Safety Check. If you think someone you know might be at risk, please take time to ask them about their fire safety and if you have any concerns get in touch with us.

“This year we will be continuing to work closely with all of our partners to deliver our winter fire safety messages, which will include for example, the delivery of fire safety advice in collaboration with food parcel schemes. Any one of our partner organisations can refer their service users to us for a Free Home Fire Safety Check. We will also be proactively delivering fire safety advice to 16,000 households in those areas we have identified as being most at risk of accidental fire in the home.

“Throughout the pandemic Firefighters have continued protecting the community they serve. Our people have worked extremely hard, responding to more incidents this year compared to the same period in 2019, despite the additional pressures placed on us by the pandemic. I recognise this has been a challenging year for so many people and we’re all looking forward to Christmas, but it’s vitally important that we don’t let down our guard when it comes to protecting ourselves and our loved ones from fire.

“I’m calling on the community to support us as we enter the high risk period. If we all do our part, we can minimise the risk of accidental fires in the home and be safer together this winter.”

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