Smoking warning after Norfolk house fires

18 December 2018

Smokers are being warned to take extra care extinguishing cigarettes after the habit was linked to serious fires in Norfolk homes this year.

With smoking being the third biggest cause of domestic property fires in the county, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has dealt with an increased number of house fires this year.

Nationally, fire injuries are more likely to be caused in kitchen fires and fire fatalities are commonly linked to smoking materials. A smouldering cigarette can lay dormant for up to six hours before sparking a flame, which means house fires can start in the middle of the night when people are asleep in bed.

And Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards team is warning people not to purchase cheap cigarettes after several raids uncovered counterfeit cigarettes which can increase the risk of fires.

Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Communities Committee, said: “Fake cigarettes do not self-extinguish and so elevate the risk of fire. Legislation around cigarettes ensures that safety standards are maintained and people buying cheap cigarettes from illegal sellers cannot be sure of what they are buying.

"Counterfeit and smuggled cigarettes tested on behalf of our Trading Standards team failed fire safety testing, with counterfeit cigarettes in particular burning all the way down to the filter. In the past two years Norfolk Trading Standards Service has seized over 1.4 million illegal cigarettes and 170kg of illegal hand rolling tobacco. The team will continue its work to protect the most vulnerable residents in our communities by cracking down on criminals who prey on them. We will continue to bring offending traders before the courts. Convictions have resulted in prison sentences, fines and forfeiture of stock and have also led to unscrupulous traders having their alcohol licences revoked."

This year, four people have died in house fires in Norfolk. In 2017 there were two fatalities.

There have been 464 building fires in Norfolk in 2018, compared to 433 in 2017.

It has been a busy year for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, who also had to deal with a huge increase in open fires, including in forests, heathland, farmland and coastal cliffs, caused largely by the tinder dry conditions in the summer.

Kitchen fires are the biggest cause of fire starting in homes across Norfolk. Out of the 464 fires, 228 were believed to have started with cooking appliances (including cookers and microwaves).

There are steps residents can take to help reduce their risk of fire in the home. These include:

  • Installing smoke alarms and testing them weekly
  • Ensure clutter is cleared and do not hoard belongings
  • Register warranties on household appliances, as this means that manufacturers can easily contact you if a product has to be recalled due to fault
  • Don’t leave candles unattended
  • Don’t overload plug sockets
  • Don’t leave mobile phones and tablets charging overnight
  • Don’t smoke in bed and always use proper ashtrays and ensure cigarettes are extinguished
  • Don’t leave stoves unattended
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach
  • Close internal doors at night to slow fire spread

It is also essential that people also plan their escape routes so they know how they would get out in the event of a fire. Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service carry out free home fire risk checks. To arrange one, call 0800 917 8137. 

In the event of a fire, residents should get out, stay out and call 999.

Norfolk residents and businesses can provide information about illegal cigarettes by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer helpline (anonymously if you wish) on 03454 04 05 06 or via their online form at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer.

Or you can call police on 101 (use 999 in an emergency).

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