Annual campaign targets top cause of fatal house fires

Thu 9 Apr, 2015

Firefighters are urging smokers to wake up to the deadly dangers of smoking, particularly when they are tired, as a third of all deaths in fires in the home are caused by cigarettes.

The reminder is part of an annual national initiative organised by the Government’s Fire Kills campaign

Smoking is the single biggest killer in accidental fires in the home, often because people were smoking in bed or not taking care after drinking alcohol.

Last month, there were two fires caused by cigarettes in Buckinghamshire and two people died. The causes of death will be established at their inquests. (Click here for more details).

In 2014 there were 24 smoking-related fires in Buckinghamshire and 20 in Milton Keynes. Four people were injured, and attended hospital, as a result of these fires.

In 2013 there were 22 smoking-related fires in Buckinghamshire and 24 in Milton Keynes. The fires led to one death and two injuries.

Richard Priest, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “When smokers fall asleep with a lit cigarette in hand, the resulting fire is so close to them that it seriously lowers their chance of escaping in time.

“Despite a fall in the overall number of fires caused by these products, it’s still the biggest killer in accidental fires in the home across the country. Every six days, someone dies from a fire caused by cigarettes or smoking materials.

“Every smoker should wake up to the risks they take every time they light up, and drop the habit of smoking while in bed or under the influence of alcohol. The risk of falling asleep before you put it out is just too great. Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke can render you unconscious."

These simple steps can help prevent a cigarette fire in the home:

  • Never smoke in bed. Take care when you’re tired – it’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight.
  • Never smoke when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If your lit cigarette starts a fire you could be less able to escape.
  • Put it out, right out! Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished.
  • Test your smoke alarms weekly or monthly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.
  • Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down.
  • Use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn.
  • Click here for an A4 poster with illustrations and captions

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 to book one of these visits.

For advice on giving up smoking, visit (Buckinghamshire) or (Milton Keynes).