No property is immune from the risks of fire – which can strike suddenly and without warning. Even when the occupants are careful, taking every precaution, it’s still possible that a blaze will break out in your home, leaving devastation in its wake.
The fire service in the UK has compiled fire statistics from 2019 to draw attention to the risk of fires in the home, including the main causes. In an effort to reduce the large number of domestic blazes, the Home Office releases the data into the public domain to highlight why fires occur.
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How many fires occurred?
Across the UK, there were 37,740 fires in people’s homes. Although this seems a high number, it has actually decreased by almost half in the past two decades. This is largely due to the fire service’s continued advice on how to prevent fires. The highest number of house fires on record in the UK occurred in 1999, when the fire and rescue services attended 71,082 blazes.
The largest number of fires in the past year occurred in England, where there were 30,813 – equating to 554 fires per one million people. There were 5,310 fires in Scotland – 979 per one million residents; and 1,617 in Wales, equating to 517 fires per one million people. This means that while England had the most fires numerically, Scotland had the most on average, in terms of the size of its population.
How many fatalities were there?
Sadly, there were 398 fire-related deaths across the UK. While even one loss of life in a fire is too many, the figure has reduced dramatically since 1985, when there were 967 fatalities.
The majority of deaths are caused by inhaling smoke, rather than the fire itself, as toxic gases are produced by fires. Burns caused around 25% of fatalities.
Sadly, 10% of the 37,740 domestic fires attended by the UK fire services were started deliberately. In England, 58 fatalities and 1,186 casualties, with various injuries, resulted from arson.
What are the most common causes?
Cooking appliances are by far the most common cause of house fires in the UK, accounting for 48.3% of all fires. Although house fires can strike at any time of day, they are most common in December, between 6 pm and 8 pm – thousands of people are coming home from work and cooking a hot meal at this time.
The most common fires resulting from cooking appliances include having the deep fryer at too high a temperature and using old and therefore more flammable oil; leaving pans unattended on the hob; and leaving the grill on high and forgetting to keep an eye on it. Leaving flammable items such as dishcloths near a lit hob is also a common cause.
Faulty appliances can cause fires – any electrical appliance more than ten years old should be checked regularly.
Other causes of fires
Other electrical appliances throughout the home account for 12.8% of house fires, while a faulty electrical system is the third highest cause of fires at 11.9%. Smokers’ materials cause 10.2% of fires. In particular, smoking at night in bed is highly dangerous, as it’s too easy to fall asleep and leave a cigarette burning. Failing to put out a cigarette properly anywhere in the home can prove lethal.
Portable heaters cause around 5% of fires – due to malfunction, or more commonly because they are misused. Never position wet washing too close to a heater, and don’t put the heater too close to soft furnishings, such as curtains or armchairs.
Other items that cause fires in the home include candles, cigarette lighters and matches – especially if children find them and start playing with them. In the winter months of December, January and February, there’s an increase in chimney fires.
Do smoke alarms make a difference?
Around 25% of fires in the UK occurred in homes where there wasn’t a working smoke alarm, resulting in more than 200 fatalities.
A working smoke alarm detects the smoke and alerts residents to a fire, giving them more chance to escape. Described by fire chiefs as the “life-saving success story” of the past three decades, fire alarms can reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 50%.
Routine smoke alarm checks should be performed regularly to make sure they are working properly and the batteries should be changed before they go flat. Smoke alarms must be replaced at least every ten years.
How well does the fire service respond?
Based on 37,740 domestic fires, over a 12-month period, the UK fire service’s average response time was seven minutes and 44 seconds. The response time differs depending on the area, with city areas experiencing a faster response time than rural districts – due to the location of the fire stations.
In city areas, the average response time was six minutes and 37 seconds. In areas that were predominantly urban, the average response time was eight minutes and 54 seconds. Areas that were a mixture of urban and rural dwellings had a response time of eight minutes and 55 seconds. The slowest response time was to rural districts, at nine minutes and 34 seconds.
How long does an insurance claim take?
A home insurance claim after a fire can take anything from 48 hours to a year to process, according to the Association of British Insurers – it’s a complex area!
If you are putting in a claim, there is likely to be a significant amount of damage and the length of time it takes to settle depends on numerous factors – such as how long it will take to restore and repair the property, and the number of people involved.
It may be quicker to replace the furniture damaged in a fire than it is to fix structural flaws as a result of water damage, for example – even if the fire damage looks more severe. A blaze can leave you without even basic furniture such as beds, chairs, settees, bedroom furniture and soft furnishings. It can be hard getting back on your feet again.
Suffered fire damage?
Furniture Rental Online provides emergency furniture – get a quick quote online. We work with insurance companies, loss adjusters and claims handlers to make the process as quick and straightforward as possible.