Cigarette causes flat fire

Wed 26 Nov, 2014


Firefighters are urging smokers to take extra care following a fire in Iver this afternoon.

Crews from Gerrards Cross and Langley were called to a bedroom fire in a ground-floor flat in High Street shortly before 3pm.

A smoke alarm fitted earlier this year by firefighters from Gerrards Cross Fire Station was sounding as crews arrived at the incident. A returning occupant smelled the smoke and discovered the fire shortly before the smoke reached the alarm.

Watch Manager Denis Melia from Gerrards Cross Fire Station said: “The incident was caused by the female occupant of the property falling asleep with a lit cigarette. 

“On arrival, smoke was issuing from the affected property and the occupant was already outside. 

“To prevent dangerous escalation of the incident, a breathing apparatus crew of two firefighters equipped with a hose reel entered the premises and safely extinguished a well-developed fire.

“Contact was made with a day care nursery in an adjoining building, and the occupants were advised to close all windows and remain inside. 

“Smouldering material including the mattress, which was the seat of the fire, was removed from the property by the breathing apparatus crew. The crew then entered the flat above to check for vertical fire spread using a thermal imaging camera.”

Firefighters ventilated the flat and fitted a replacement smoke alarm to limit the effects of any smoke contamination to the original one. 

Earlier this year, firefighters from Gerrards Cross Fire Station visited the flat to provide fire safety advice and fit a smoke alarm as part of initiative which uses special software to identify addresses which could benefit from such a visit. 

Denis praised the occupants for following advice given during the fire safety visit by making their emergency call once they were clear of the property. In the event discovering of a fire in the home, occupants are urged to “get out, stay out and call 999”.

Denis said: “This incident demonstrates the effectiveness of  Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s fire prevention strategy. We take pre-emptive and preventative action to attempt to minimise the risk of fire breaking out in the first place, and provide protective measures such as smoke detectors to prevent harm to the occupants should fire occur.

“On this occasion, had the second occupant not returned, the smoke detector could have raised the alarm and perhaps saved the female occupant’s life.”

Denis also thanked control operators from Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, who remained on the phone with the occupant until firefighters arrived.

Nationally, a third of all deaths in fires in the home are caused by cigarettes. Despite a fall in the overall number of fires caused as a result of people smoking, it’s still the biggest killer in accidental fires in the home across the country. 

Last year there were 22 smoking-related fires in Buckinghamshire and 24 in Milton Keynes. The fires led to one death and two injuries.

Denis offered the following safety advice:

  • Never smoke in bed, and take care when you’re tired. If you need to lie down, don’t light up.
  • Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended. They can easily overbalance.
  • Tap your ash into a proper ashtray, never a wastebasket containing other rubbish - and don't let the ash or cigarette ends build up in the ashtray.
  • If you smoke in the garden, use a sand-filled pot as an outdoor ashtray.
  • Put out cigarettes carefully and dispose of them thoughtfully when outdoors or driving. Don't flick them out of cars.
  • Use child-resistant lighters and matchboxes, and keep them where children can't reach them.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol when smoking. It’s easy to lose your concentration and this could be lethal when combined with smoking.
  • Fit a smoke alarm and test it weekly or monthly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.
  • Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service will carry out free safety check to identify potential fire risks in your home, advise what to do to reduce or prevent them and fit free smoke alarms if required. Ring 01296 744477 or email cs@bucksfire.gov.uk to book one of these visits.
  • Click here for an A4 poster with illustrations and safety tips.