​​​​​​​HOUSEHOLDS LOOKING FOR ALTERNATIVE and cheaper ways of lighting and heating their homes in England could be increasing their risks of fire, says the  Local Government Association (LGA). Last year 181 people died in house fires, and this year people trying to cut costs as a result of soaring energy bills may be putting themselves more at risk.

The LGA represents English fire and rescue authorities, and wants to make sure that people using candles for lighting, running electrical products at night when cheaper, or using electric heaters, are aware of the potential risks and how to use these products safely.

There are example of fires in recent weeks, which suggest people may not be aware of the potential dangers. These include:

  • A candle too close to combustible items caused a flat fire in Uxbridge, London, on 7 December.
  • A flat fire in Harwich, Essex, on 13 December was caused by an unattended candle.
  • A blaze in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, on 13 November was caused by a tumble dryer being used overnight to save money. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue issued a warning that while leaving electrical products on at night can be cheaper, it can also be dangerous.
  • An elderly man died in a house fire in Essex caused by an electric heater being too close to the fabric of the armchair he was sitting in.
  • This month, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service raised concerns the cost-of-living crisis was causing more people to take risks to heat their homes with a rise in property fires. Firefighters believe they could have been caused by people who are struggling to pay their energy bills trying to find cheaper ways of lighting and heating their homes.
  • Wood burner fires linked to chimneys not being swept in Hereford and Worcester.

The LGA is urging people to take simple safety precautions to protect themselves. This should include never leaving candles unattended, checking heating appliances are in working order, ensuring flammable items such as furniture and drying clothes are placed away from heaters and fires, and using the correct fuel for woodburning stoves and open fires, while ensuring chimneys are swept.

Care should be taken when using electric heaters, such as never leaving them unattended or powering them from an extension lead. Households are also urged to check they have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

Cllr Frank Biederman, Chair of the Fire Services Management Committee at the LGA, said: “Many people are understandably seeking ways to reduce costs and save money as we try to manage soaring energy bills and the impact of inflation. However, it is vital that this is not at the expense of staying safe.

“We want to raise awareness of the dangers of cutting corners when it comes to lighting and heating our homes. This is why we are urging people to prevent a tragedy by following a few simple safety steps, including making sure you have working smoke alarms in your home and test them regularly, which could save your or a loved one’s life.”

* Source: Local Government Association