Fire service calls on public to make fire safety a priority this winter

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service (MFRS) is urging people to make fire safety a priority this winter following a serious house fire in Kensington.

Firefighters were called to Esher Road on Sunday 8th November. Three fire engines were needed to tackle the fire, which is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. Thankfully no one was seriously injured in the blaze, although a family pet sadly died and the house was left badly damaged.

MFRS attended 350 accidental fires in the home between October 2019 and the end of February 2020, with cooking-related fires, smoking-related fires and domestic appliances the most common causes. A number of fires in the home were also caused by heating equipment.

Mark Thomas, Group Manager for Prevention at MFRS, said: “We know that there is a lot going on this year and people are obviously pre-occupied with the pandemic and whether or not they will get a ‘normal’ Christmas but it’s really important that fire safety remains a priority – a fire in the home is the last thing anybody needs right now.

“At this time of year, people take steps to make the house warmer and cosier and we completely understand that need for comfort right now but in doing so, we can also be opening ourselves up to dangers and greater risk of fire.

“There are simple things that everyone can do to reduce the risk of fire in the home though – things like never leaving cooking unattended, ensuring candles are placed in suitable holders away from curtains or any other flammable items and making sure that cigarettes are extinguished properly. Take time to check your electrical appliances are in good working order – if wires are damaged or frayed, do not use them. Don’t leave appliances like dishwashers, washing machines or tumble dryers on overnight.

“If you have an open fire, make sure you always use a fire guard and check the fire is completely out before you leave the house or go to bed. It’s really important to make sure chimneys, flues and heating appliances are clean and well maintained too. If you have portable heaters, make sure they are kept away from curtains and furniture and NEVER use them to dry clothes. Make sure heaters are unplugged when you go to bed and NEVER use a hot water bottle with an electric blanket.

“The most important step to take is to make sure that you have working smoke alarms in your property and that everyone in your household knows what to do and how to escape in the event of a fire.”

Throughout the winter period, MFRS’ operational crews will be distributing Home Safety Advice leaflets across Merseyside, concentrating on areas of deprivation and where we know there are vulnerable people living.

GM Thomas added: “It’s really important at this time of year that we all look out for our elderly and vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours. Older residents can be particularly at risk of fire in their homes, especially as they may still be using old appliances or may not be able to check their smoke alarms on a weekly basis. We will be working closely with our partner agencies, including local authorities and housing associations, to make sure the most vulnerable members of our community asre safe this winter. We’d urge members of the public to do their bit to – the next time you speak to your elderly or vulnerable relatives, whether this be over the phone or visiting them as part of your social bubble, check if they need anything and ask if they have working smoke alarms.”

For free fire safety advice, call 0800 731 5958. Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service also provides free smoke alarms for Merseyside residents aged 65 or over. Due to COVID-19, risk assessments will be carried out over the phone before any home visits can be arranged.

Follow these tips to stay safe from fire:

• Smoke alarms – smoke alarms save lives but only if they’re working and in the right place. You should have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of your home. Consider installing additional alarms in rooms with electrical appliances or sleeping areas. Don't put alarms in or near kitchens and bathrooms where smoke or steam could set them off accidentally. NEVER take the batteries out of your smoke alarm to put into another electrical device.

• Heaters – keep heaters well away from clothes, curtains, furniture and other flammable materials. NEVER use heaters to dry clothes. ALWAYS switch off and unplug your heaters before going to bed.

• Smoking – if you smoke, use a proper ashtray and make sure it is placed on a level surface away from combustible materials. Make sure your cigarettes are fully extinguished. Don’t smoke in bed – you could easily fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and cause a fire.

• Candles – keep candles and tea lights away from anything that can catch fire. NEVER leave lit candles unattended – make sure they are fully extinguished before leaving the room or going to bed. Consider using LED battery-operated candles instead.

• Cooking – make it a priority to keep cooking areas clear & clean from combustible materials. Make sure your oven and grill are clean – a build-up of fat or grease can cause a fire. DON’T leave pans unattended while cooking and NEVER leave children or pets unattended in the kitchen.

•  Electrical items – check your electrical appliances are in good working order. If the wires are damaged or frayed, do no not use them. Don’t leave washing machines, tumble dryers or dishwashers running overnight or when you are not in. Don’t overload your plug sockets. Appliances such as washing machines should have a single plug to themselves as they are high powered.

• Escape routes – make sure everyone in your household knows how to get out in the event of a fire. Ensure your escape routes are clear from any clutter. Keep your door and window keys in a known and accessible place.

• IN AN EMERGENCY, CALL 999 IMMEDIATELY. In the event of a fire, get out, stay out and call 999.