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Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service issues vital ‘Winter Wise’ fire safety guidance as cold weather warnings are issued

Unconventional heating methods within the home increase risk of serious fire-related incidents

Ice on windows

With temperatures set to drop this week, Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) is issuing fire safety guidance to residents of Berkshire in an effort to help keep them safe and reduce serious fire-related incidents.

Following cold weather warnings issued by the Met Office for the week ahead, Berkshire residents are being warned to be extra vigilant when it comes to ensuring their homes remain warm during these colder months.

Local fire prevention teams are concerned that we could see a rise in the number of serious fire-related injuries and potential fatalities throughout the county as some residents try to find alternative ways to stay warm and light their homes amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Commenting on RBFRS’s ‘Winter Wise’ campaign, which aims to educate people about a range of fire risks within the home, Neil Whiteman, Safety Education Coordinator said: “We are already seeing evidence of people resorting to unconventional heating methods within the home to try and keep warm. Firefighters discovered a family using disposable BBQs inside the home which resulted in them suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, while a house fire was started by the careless use of candles being used for lighting purposes.”

According to figures published by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), during the last three months of 2021 in England alone, there were 99 fire-related fatalities with 76 of these happening in homes. This compares to 54 in the same quarter the year before – a 41% rise.

Accidental fires in the home caused by candles in England, year ending March 2022 totalled 940, the highest recorded in more than 10 years. Around a third of these fires resulted in death or injury.

Between 1 April 2021 and March 2022, there were 208 fire-related fatalities in dwelling fires. This compared with 185 in the previous year (a 12% increase).

The NFCC and local fire and rescue services are concerned these figures could rise, as many members of the public understandably look at ways to deal with colder weather and rising costs.

Winter Wise advice from RBFRS

By taking simple steps in the home, Berkshire residents can help to protect themselves from accidental fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Always unplug electric heaters when going to bed or leaving the property.
  • Keep heaters away from flammable items, such as curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.
  • Only use gas or paraffin heaters in well-ventilated areas and always have in place a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Never use hot water bottles in the same bed as an electric blanket, even if switched off
  • If using a hot water bottle, check the date of manufacture on it. If it is three or more years old then replace it with a new one.
  • Always unplug electric blankets before going to bed, unless it has a thermostat control for safe all-night use.
  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained. This should be done by a registered and competent person.
  • Be careful when using open fires to keep warm – make sure you always use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks.
  • Make sure hot embers are under control and properly extinguished before going to bed or leaving the property.
  • Do not sit too close to any open fires, gas fires or halogen heaters if using emollient products as both paraffin and non-paraffin products can act as an accelerant when absorbed into clothing and exposed to naked flames or other heat sources.

For further cold weather advice, visit the RBFRS website.

Wood burning stove lit in the home