Warning house fires in London may rise as people resort to other heating methods

·3-min read
New Malden house fire (London Fire Brigade)
New Malden house fire (London Fire Brigade)

London Fire Brigade have warned there could be a surge in house fires as people resort to alternative methods to heat their homes amid a rise in energy bills.

It comes after a huge blaze broke out in a property in south-west London after a man burnt timber on an open fire in his living room to heat his home.

Investigators said the cause of the inferno has been determined as “involving an open fire being used instead of gas central heating”, prompting the fire service to issue an urgent safety warning.

It is understood to have also been caused by combustible items too close to an open fire.

LFB said there have been more than 100 fires involving open fires, log burners and heaters in the last few months alone.

They fear the rise in energy bills could result in a surge of fires as people resort to alternative means to heat their homes throughout the colder spells of the year.

Deputy assistant commissioner for fire safety Charlie Pugsley said: “We know this is a difficult time and people are thinking about ways to reduce their energy bills, but we’re really concerned that they may be putting lives at risk by doing so.

“If you do have a log burner or an open fire, follow our advice carefully. Almost 30% of fires involving log burners, heaters and traditional open fires are caused by items being placed too close to a heat source. Always use a fire guard and keep anything that could catch alight well away, such as logs and kindling which could be ignited by radiating heat.

“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.

“Please don’t take the risk by 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.”

The warning comes after fire crews were called to a house fire in Kingston Road, New Malden, shortly after 8.30am on April 26 when flames spread through the property.

The fire was under control by 10.30am and the house sustained “significant damage”.

London Ambulance Service said it treated three people at the scene, with one man being taken to hospital as a priority.

Adam Scorer, chief executive of fuel poverty charity National Energy Action (NEA), described the incident as a “harsh and dangerous reality of the cost-of-living crisis”.

“One in four UK households are now in fuel poverty, which means millions are facing impossible choices because of their high energy bills,” he said.

“Some are choosing between heating and eating, others are self disconnecting completely and some are even starting open fires. These aren’t coping strategies. It’s people who feel they have no safe choice to make. Sadly, it will only become more common as the impact of the price rises and the reality of next winter hits home.

“The Government has to get its priorities right. Government has to get money in the pockets and off the energy bills of those on lowest incomes.”

Last year, the Government brought in new laws surrounding fire safety with an aim to make homes and buildings safer following the fatal Grenfell Tower blaze in 2017.

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have set out a £22 billion package of support, including rebates and energy bill reductions.

“Anyone struggling to pay their energy bills should contact their supplier as soon as possible to work out an affordable payment plan, which suppliers are legally obliged to agree to.”

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