Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Get ready for a fire safe winter

With winter just around the corner now is the time to make sure that your home is fire safe and ready for cold weather.

The start of winter normally signals an increase in calls with a spike in fires caused by candles, heaters, fireplaces and electric blankets. But if you take a few simple precautions you can make sure that you and your family are safe.

Divisional Officer Neil Fenwick, Community Safety, said: “As a fire service we see a sharp rise in the number of incidents we attend during the winter months, particularly to fires in chimney breasts and those involving candles.

“At this time of year people light their fires for the first time in months, electric blankets are taken out of storage and portable heaters come out for the first time since last year and all of these can be a serious hazard.

“But by following a few simple safety tips you can make sure that your homes is as safe as it can be throughout the winter.”

If you have an open fire make sure your chimney is cleaned before you light it for the first time. A build-up of soot and ash can spark a chimney fire. These fires are not only dangerous they can cause a huge amount of damage to your home.

Heaters should always be positioned with their backs against the wall and if possible secure them to the wall to prevent them from falling over. Switch heaters off if you’re not in the room and also when you go to bed.

Portable gas heaters should have the cylinders stored and changed outside or in a well ventilated atmosphere.

Both gas and paraffin heaters should only be used in a well ventilated area. They consume oxygen from the atmosphere and can cause death by asphyxiation (suffocation), if not adequately ventilated. Don’t place heaters near curtains or furnishings and never use them for drying clothes.

All electric blankets should be checked and the best rule of thumb is that if your blanket is more that 10 years-old or shows any sign of wear and tear then they should be replaced immediately.

When anyone buys a new electric blanket make sure it has ‘overheat protection’, which will cut off the electricity if it becomes too hot. All electric blankets should carry the British Standard Kitemark and the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) symbol on them. Have your blanket checked by an expert once every three years or as recommended by the manufacturer.

If you’re planning on using candles to set the mood on a cold winter evening make sure you take extra care. Put candles are in a proper holder, well away from curtains and furniture and out of the reach of pets and children. Always remember to put candles out when you leave the room, especially if you’re going to bed for the night.

DO Fenwick said: “By far the best advice we can give is to make sure that you have smoke alarms in your home and test them regularly. If you don’t have smoke alarms call us and we will come and fit one free of charge as part of a home safety visit.”

To arrange a home safety visit call ECFRS on 0300 303 0088, email or fill in the form found here.


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