Fire caused by discarded cigarettes damages flats

Sun 7 May, 2017

Firefighters are reminding people of the hazards of careless disposal of cigarettes after a fire at a block of flats in Bletchley yesterday (Saturday 6 May).

Crews from Milton Keynes, Buckingham and Leighton Buzzard were called to Stephenson House in Wetherburn Court shortly after 10.30am. At its peak, there were nearly 30 firefighters at the scene.

Watch Commander Chris Montague from Great Holm Fire Station said: "The fire was caused by a discarded cigarette on a first-floor flat roof. This resulted in damage to the outer cladding of the building and light smoke-logging to a first-floor flat.

"A significant number of cigarette ends had accumulated as a result of people disposing of them out of their flat windows. The cigarette ends had been blowing under the join in the roof and sitting under the building's cladding, raising the risk of a fire in the cavity wall."

Some of the accumulated cigarette ends are pictured above. Firefighters put out the fire with a hose reel and had to remove some of the nine-storey building's cladding.

Last month a house in Galley Hill, Milton Keynes, was damaged after a smouldering cigarette end which was discarded outside it set fire to rubbish. The flames spread through an air brick and set fire to the back of a wooden cabinet in the dining room.

Richard Priest, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service's community safety team, said: "A third of all deaths in fires in the home are caused by cigarettes. Even fires like this one can spread to people's homes and put their lives and property at risk."

Over the last five years (the calendar years 2012 to 2016) there have been 78 smoking-related fires in Buckinghamshire and 75 in Milton Keynes. The fires led to two deaths in Buckinghamshire and three in Milton Keynes.

Richard offered the following safety tips:

  • Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended. They can easily overbalance.
  • Never smoke in bed, and take care when you’re tired. If you need to lie down, don’t light up.
  • Put out cigarettes carefully and dispose of them thoughtfully when outdoors or driving. Don't flick them out of cars.
  • Counterfeit cigarettes pose an even bigger fire risk than genuine ones as, once lit, they don't self-extinguish when they are not actively being smoked. This increases the fire risk if they are dropped, left burning in an ashtray or if the smoker falls asleep.
  • If you smoke in the garden, use a sand-filled pot as an outdoor ashtray, and empty it regularly.
  • Use child-resistant lighters and matchboxes, and keep them where children can't reach them.
  • 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.
  • 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 to book one of these visits.