Fire chiefs fear cost of living worries could spark heater blazes

Elderly lady with electric fire

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service fears an increase in use of portable heaters due to the cost of living crisis could spark a surge in blazes. - Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Fire chiefs have issued a warning over heater fires, amid fears the cost of living crisis means more people in Norfolk are using them to keep warm.

With rising costs for electricity and gas, growing numbers of people in the county are using open fires and portable heaters to keep parts of their homes warm, in the hope that will save money.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's community teams have spotted an increase and fire chiefs fear it could lead to a surge in blazes.

Paul Seaman

Paul Seaman, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's head of response. - Credit: Ian Burt

Paul Seaman, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service's head of response, said the winter months always meant more accidental heating fires, as people used fires, wood burners or portable heaters.

He said there had yet to be an increase in incidents directly due to the cost of living rise - but the service is worried there could be.

He said: "Our community safety team is aware that more people are now using fires and portable heaters due to concerns over cost rises.

“We would remind everyone to use wood burners and fires in the correct way and burn the correct materials.

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"We have had a number of incidents caused by portable heater fires in the home in Norfolk, where they have been placed too close to flammable materials.

"We are working closely with colleagues in the social care sector to help educate carers and residents in how these heaters can be used safely and have more work planned in this area over the coming months."

Firefighters in Norfolk have attended 12 fires involving open fires and heaters in homes so far this year, compared to 24 in 2021.

Other parts of the country have seen increases in such incidents amid the cost of living crisis.

Fire damage to home

A photograph issued by London Fire Brigade (LFB) of property in Kingston Road, New Malden, which suffered 'significant damage', following a fire after a man burnt timber on an open fire in his living room to heat his home. - Credit: PA

London Fire Brigade said a blaze broke out at a home in the capital last month because a man was burning timber on an open fire in his living room to keep warm.

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have set out a £22bn 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."

How to stay safe

Portable heaters

Follow the manufacturer's operating and maintenance instructions, keep them clean and serviced regularly.

Pay special attention following a period of storage or after a seasonal break.

Ventilate rooms where the heater is to be used.

If the heater is to be used in one place, fix it securely to a floor or a wall.

Turn off portable heaters before going to bed at night.

Do not stand or sit too close, your clothing may melt or ignite.

Do not air, or dry clothing on heaters

Do not leave portable heaters on if young children or pets are left unattended.

Open fires

Ensure your chimney is swept regularly.

Be careful when using open fires to keep warm. Make sure you always use a fire guard to protect against flying sparks from hot embers.

Ensure the fire is extinguished before going to bed or leaving the house.

Never interrupt the air supply by blocking air vents or air bricks.

Wood burners

Woodburner

People have been urged to take extra care over woodburners. - Credit: Archant

Ensure correct ventilation is available when the woodburner is in use.

Only use the right quality of wood, as recommended by the supplying company.

Wood should be dry, well seasoned - usually wood that has been kept dry and stored for about two years.

For each period of slow burning (overnight) there should follow a quick burn to dry out any unwanted tar or creosote deposits.