Is Your Home Safe From Fire?

Updated: Apr 21

Home is where the heart is.


But it is also where about ‘80% of all civilian deaths from fire occur.’[1]


While accident and fatality figures continue on the trend of year-on-year decline, the most recent Home Office statistics for 20/21 include 185 total fatalities and 4,877 non-fatal casualties.[2]


As we would all agree, 1 fatality and any injuries are too many.


So, what dangers do you need to be more aware of?

How can you keep your homes and families safe?


1. Faulty fuel supplies

Faulty fuels remain top of the list of dangers in the home.


This can include faulty connections to fuel supplies, including the ever-present gas leak! If spaces become filled with gas, ignition from household switches, including light switches and kettles can result in fire or explosions.


Mass-marketing campaigns from gas giants such as Cadent, the National Grid, or the ENA, Energy Networks Association, regularly publish information on what to do if you think you can smell gas including advertising the National Gas Emergency Number, 0800 111 999.


When gas leaks are undetected, the results from subsequent combustion can be shocking and deadly, as was found earlier this year in Sunderland.[3]


Two were treated for non-life-threatening injuries after a blast at the home on the 15th February 2022.

These figures continue on the downward trend, from 2,330 in 13/14 to 2,280 in 20/21.[4]


A house in Sunderland with it's roof blown off and damage to the front of the house, after a gas leak explosion

2. Faulty appliances and leads

Faulty appliances and leads, such as power cables, which transport mains electricity to a range of appliances, are also a very common cause of household fires. This is due in part to a large number of appliances and leads in most homes and the number of homes that use them.


Consider how many appliances you have in your home, and then multiply this by the estimated 24, 658[5] dwellings across England. You, therefore, get an idea of the scale of the potential problem.


PAT, or Portable Appliance Testing, testing can provide peace of mind for electrical items, including,

  • Fridges 

  • Phone Chargers

  • Dishwashers, Washing Machines, Tumble Dryers etc.

  • Freezers 

  • Lamps

  • TVs

  • Kettles, and

  • Toasters.[6]

An appliance is PAT tested using the PAT testing machine

Once PAT testing has been completed, items are certified for the year to attest to their safety, but PAT testing is not generally used in the domestic setting.


The answer then regular visual inspections from users can ensure that they are safe to use, and do not provide a safety risk.


Reasons to fail a visual safety test include,

  • Split, damaged or twisted cables.

  • Inauthentic or used looking packaging.

  • Cracked, warped, discoloured, scorched or burned casings.

  • The plug does not easily fit into a socket.

  • You can hear, see or smell anything that is not normal when you plug it in.[7]


Fires from Faulty appliances and leads accounted for 3,665 fires in 20/21 or just over 15% of all fires from 20/21.[8]


3. Misuse of equipment or appliances

When products are designed, manufactured, and safety checked, this is all done around a set of pre-determined usage parameters, for example, the all-too-common extension cable.


Saviour of technology, and very handy in the home, firefighters often see extension cables that are significantly overloaded, which greatly increases the chances of a fire breaking out, as seen in late 2018 in Birchwood, Cheshire.


To keep your home safe, ensure that the amp of your extension cable is not exceeded. The ampage of each extension cable should be clearly labelled on the unit, and the cable should not be used if it appears damaged or cables frayed etc, as this will increase your likelihood of experiencing a fire event.


The maximum load for a single socket is around 13 amps or 3,000 watts, so anything using an extension cable into one socket should not exceed these maximum loads. Misuse of equipment or appliances resulted in around 30% of household fires in 20/21, nearly 4% less than the previous year.[9]

A burned and melted extension cable from the scene of a house fire in Cheshire.


Cheshire Fire and Rescue tweeted a warning to the public about the dangers of overloading extension cables. [10]



4. Chip pan fires

This entry is unlikely to be a surprise to many of you. Surprisingly, heating large vats of fat poses significant risks for house fires and personal injury.


Chip pans, or deep fat fryers, can be dangerous as they heat fat to incredibly high temperatures, which can then cause spitting or smoking. Once the fat starts to smoke, it is increasingly likely to ignite, especially if they are located near other combustibles.


Accounting for only 0.66% of the causes of fire in 20/21, or 162 individual cases,[11] chip pans are falling out of popularity due to increasingly health-conscious generations, and are increasingly uncommon in homes now, which explains the thankfully low statistics.



5. Playing with fire

While it seems difficult to believe, playing with fire remains the reason for over 11% or over 2,500 cases of fires in 20/21.[12]


While not explained in any more detail in the Home office statistics, ‘Playing with fire,’ is a behaviour associated with some children and young adults, often termed ‘firesetting,’ or ‘fireplay.’


‘This type of behaviour is often referred to as firesetting or fire play. Although you might think it’s normal for children to be interested in fire, without help and guidance firesetting can become more serious and lead to property damage, injuries or even deaths.’[13]
A playing with Fire leaflet from Avon Fire & Rescue services to provide advice for loved ones about the dangers of firesetting.

Advice is available via your local fire brigade if you have any concerns about firesetting in your home, and help should be sought sooner rather than later before an accident occurs.



6. Carelessness with fire or hot substances

Another addition to the list that will not be a surprise is carelessness with fire and hot substances.


Being under lockdown conditions due to the Coronavirus pandemic has meant that more of us than ever have been celebrating within our homes. This will have led to an increase in alcohol consumption within the home, which is renowned for causing carelessness with fire and hot substances.


Carelessness accounted for just over 13% of all accidental fires in 2020-2021, a rise of over 3% on figures for the year ending 2018/19.[14]


This can be significantly reduced by not handling hot substances or fire unnecessarily, and remaining sober while cooking, particularly as BBQ season draws nearer.


7. Placing articles too close to the heat

Similar to the Misuse of Equipment or Appliances, the positioning of an appliance can contribute to fires within the home.


For example, a lamp, which is designed to have clear, uninterrupted space all around, allows for light flow to be uninterrupted and keeps lightbulbs well ventilated.


Putting a jumper over the top of your lamp to read in secret as a child, is a perfect example of placing articles too close to the heat and creates potential risk. In my case, your jumper catches fire, and you have to jump on it to put it out, so it does not spread to your entire bedroom and burn the house down.


Less so with modern LED bulbs, old-fashioned incandescent bulbs became very warm during use, as they created light through the heating of a filament. By putting my jumper, a flammable object, on top of a heat source, I unwittingly provided the perfect environment for a fire to start.


Placing articles too close to heat sources is a very simple, common mistake, accounting for over 13% of accidental fires in the domestic setting, according to Home Office statistics. [15]


To remove the chance of this happening, educate younger inhabitants about the importance of keeping electrical objects clear of obstructions, and keep appliances clear from coverings or soft furnishings.

A lightbulb filament glows brightly with white/ orange tones around a very dark backdrop. The curved glass edge of the lightbulb catches the light and glows.

Other accidental & Unspecified

Responsible for the final 13%, and less than 1% respectively, of fires in homes across the UK in the year ending 20/21, we are left with the rather enigmatic categories of ‘Other Accidental,’ or ‘Unspecified.’


The categories included in the Home Office and Office of National Statistics Data stem from observations made by firefighters on scene, and as such, when we reached out to them for further clarification on the types of fires included in these sections, they were unable to provide it.

As such, we can only guess at the causes of 14% of fires across the country.


Surprisingly, however, is the lack of fires identified as being started by cigarettes[16] and smokers’ materials, which are reported to be the cause of ‘a third of all accidental fire fatalities in the home.’[17] The data from the Home Office and National Statistics Office makes no mention of cigarettes or smokers’ materials, so we can only assume which category it might fall into.

A lit cigarette burns releasing smoke on a ledge.


Overall, one thing we have all learned over the past few years is the importance of the sanctity and safety of our homes.


With increased awareness of common hazards within the home, you can adapt any potentially dangerous practices and keep you, your family, and your sacred spaces safe this Spring.


Did any of this surprise you?

What category do you think smoking might fall into?


Tell us in the comments!


___________________________________________________________________________ [1] San Francisco Fire Department, SF-fire.org, ‘Home Fire Facts,’ <https://sf-fire.org/home-fire-facts#:~:text=About%2080%25%20of%20all%20civilian,fires%20as%20the%20overall%20population.> 13.04.2022 [2] Data from Home Office Statistics, ‘Fire and Rescue Incident statistics, year ending September 2021,’ responsible statistician Tom Cracknell, published 10.02.2022, table FIRE 0205b, and 0205c. [3] Image and information from BBC News, ‘Sunderland explosion: two injured in gas blast at house, published 15.02.2022 <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tyne-60394508> [4] Data from Home Office Statistics, Detailed analysis of fires attended by FRSs,’ responsible statistician Deborah Lader, published 30.09.2022, table 0601. [5] Statista, ‘Number of housing Units in England from 2001-2020,’ released 2021, <https://www.statista.com/statistics/232302/number-of-dwellings-in-england/> [6] National Safety Inspections.co.uk, ‘What needs PAT testing? You’ll be shocked!’ published 15.10.2021, <https://www.nationalsafetyinspections.co.uk/blog/what-needs-pat-testing/> [7] Image and information from National Safety Inspections.co.uk, ‘What needs PAT testing? You’ll be shocked!’ published 15.10.2021, <https://www.nationalsafetyinspections.co.uk/blog/what-needs-pat-testing/> [8] Data from Home Office Statistics, Detailed analysis of fires attended by FRSs,’ responsible statistician Deborah Lader, published 30.09.2022, table 0601. [9] Data from Home Office Statistics, Detailed analysis of fires attended by FRSs,’ responsible statistician Deborah Lader, published 30.09.2022, table 0601 [10] Image from Warrington Guardian, ‘Overloaded extension cable causes fire at Birchwood home,’ published 13.12.18 by Isobel Cotogni, <https://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/17295936.overloaded-extension-cable-causes-fire-birchwood-home/> [11] Data from Home Office Statistics, Detailed analysis of fires attended by FRSs,’ responsible statistician Deborah Lader, published 30.09.2022, table 0601. [12] As above. [13] Firesetters leaflet and information from The Firesetters Team, Avon Fire & Rescue Service, published 2015, <http://sites.southglos.gov.uk/safeguarding/wp-content/uploads/sites/221/2015/12/firesetters.pdf> [14] Data from Home Office Statistics, Detailed analysis of fires attended by FRSs,’ responsible statistician Deborah Lader, published 30.09.2022, table 0601. [15] Image from Unsplash.com, courtesy of Yash Patel. [16] Image from Unsplash.com, courtesy of Andrew Siimon [17] East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, ‘Smoking,’ <https://www.esfrs.org/your-safety/safer-homes/smoking/> 13.04.2022

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