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Home » News & Events » 2013 » April » Smoking is Biggest House Fire Killer

Smoking is Biggest House Fire Killer

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Smoking is the single biggest killer in accidental fires in the home, often because of careless behaviour such as smoking in bed or not taking care after drinking alcohol.

And when smokers fall asleep with a lit cigarette in hand, their proximity to the resulting fire seriously lowers their chance of escaping in time.

HWFRS is reminding smokers to ‘Put it Out, Right Out’ whenever they light up; to install smoke alarms on every level of the home; and, to test them regularly. Without a working smoke alarm you are four times more likely to die in an accidental fire in the home.

These simple steps can help prevent a cigarette fire in the home:

  • Never smoke in bed. Take care when you’re tired – it’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight.
  • Never smoke when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If your lit cigarette starts a fire you could be less able to escape.
  • Put it out, right out! Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished.
  • Fit a smoke alarm and test it weekly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.
  • Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down.
  • Use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn.

Station Commander Alan Haley from HWFRS said: “Every five days, someone dies from a fire caused by cigarettes or smoking materials. Despite a fall in the overall number of fires caused by these products, it’s still the biggest killer in accidental fires in the home across the country.

“Every smoker should wake up to the risks they take every time they light up, and drop the habit of smoking whilst in bed or under the influence of alcohol. The risk of falling asleep before you ‘put it out, right out’ is just too great.

“Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke can render you unconscious, so invest in a working smoke alarm. It can give you the extra time you need to escape if the worst should happen.”

More people die in fires caused by cigarettes and smoking products than any other cause. In England in 2011-12, accidental fires resulting from smokers’ materials made up 33% of all fatalities in the home (62 out of 187). In addition, a further 5% (10) were from accidental fires started by cigarette lighters and matches.

Only fires from cooking products and ‘other electrical appliances’ cause more non-fatal casualties than smokers’ materials. Smokers’ materials fires account for 628 of the 6,335 non-fatal casualties (10%) from accidental fires in the home in England.

Locally in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, there were 395 accidental dwelling fires in 2012 and 17 of these were caused by cigarettes and other smoking products. Ten people were injured as a result of these smoking-related fires.