Carbon monoxide ‘urgent alert’ as soaring energy bills raise open fire fears

London Fire Brigade is urging people to get their chimney and flue swept regularly (PA Archive)
London Fire Brigade is urging people to get their chimney and flue swept regularly (PA Archive)

London Fire Brigade has issued an urgent carbon monoxide warning as it fears soaring energy bills are leading more people to heat their homes using open fires - potentially risking their lives.

The alert comes after firefighters discovered a fire in a north London fireplace that was emitting “dangerously high” levels of the deadly gas, and could have killed everyone in the building.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “We know with financial pressures people are thinking about ways to reduce energy bills, but we’re really concerned that they may be putting lives at risk by doing so.”

LFB was called to a flat in Osborne Road, Southgate, on January 6 after residents reported they could smell burning.

Firefighters and a gas engineer investigated and discovered fumes from an open fire in the neighbouring property were making their way into the flat.

The fire had been lit earlier in the day and then left smouldering. The neighbours had gone out for the evening, and left it not ventilating properly.

“Firefighters fear if the resident had not raised the alarm due to the smell of burning, it could have been fatal to all the occupants in the building,” said LFB.

“The Brigade fears that costly energy bills could result in a surge of fires like these, as people resort to alternative means to heat their homes throughout the colder spells this winter,” said a spokesperson.

As people try to keep their homes warm in a cost-effective way amid rising energy bills, LFB is urging all Londoners with open fires to check chimneys and flues are in good working condition.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Charlie Pugsley, said: “As we enter some of the coldest months of the year, it’s natural to want to heat homes in a cost-effective way but keeping warm does need to be done in a safe way. This incident could have had very deadly consequences were it not for the resident smelling the fire burning and calling 999.

“This incident is a timely reminder to Londoners to make sure that anyone with an open fire has their chimney and flue swept regularly by a registered chimney sweep.

“If you’re lighting an open fire, do follow our safety precautions carefully. We know with financial pressures people are thinking about ways to reduce energy bills, but we’re really concerned that they may be putting lives at risk by doing so.

“For example, don’t risk using treated wood on fires. Not only can they produce toxic fumes, but they are also more likely to spit embers when burnt, which could set alight to nearby objects.

“It’s also important to make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms in your home. You can’t taste, see, or smell carbon monoxide fumes, but it can kill in minutes.”

As well as the carbon monoxide risk, LFB warned almost 30 per cent of blazes involving log burners, heaters and open fires are caused by items left to near to a heat source.

For more safety advice and further information about carbon monoxide risks, visit the LFB website.