Fire warning for portable heaters

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service and Telford and Wrekin Council have issued a joint warning to householders to take extra care with portable heaters after a Telford family narrowly escaped a house fire which ripped through their home.

Mum Rebecca Coffey managed to lower her three children, including a six week old baby, to safety from a bedroom window as her partner Ian escaped out of the kitchen window.

Fire investigators say the severe blaze ripped through the home within minutes of a settee catching on fire after a portable halogen heater had been placed nearby.

The semi detached home in Teal Close, near Brookside, was severely damaged in the fire. The young mum, who broke her leg, and her baby son are recovering well after receiving hospital treatment.

Fire prevention officers at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service said they had seen a rise in the number of fires started by portable heaters. More than 700 house fires nationwide were recorded over 12 months up to April last year.

“Portable heaters can be dangerous. People must follow the instructions and get them serviced and properly maintained. Always have a working smoke alarm in your home which costs just £5,” said Phil Clarke, Group Manager in the county brigade’s fire prevention department.

More people, particularly the elderly, were using portable heaters to heat single rooms as fuel costs rise, he warned.

He urged family, friends and neighbours to ensure elderly people in particular were protected.

Wendy Mitchell, who makes up to six daily visits to give energy efficiency advice on affordable warmth in the home in winter, urged people to call 01952 381864 for advice.

Councillor Hilda Rhodes, a cabinet member at Telford and Wrekin Council, also joined the campaign and said: “We need to get advice to vulnerable people to protect and help them.”

In the run up to the national electric fire safety week on January 23, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued the following guidelines.

Gas cylinders should not be stored in cellars or basements because there could be a build up of gas if there is a leak. They should be changed outside or in a well ventilated area with gas and paraffin heaters only used in well ventilated areas. Don’t put them on uneven surfaces, keep children and pets away, and don’t put them near furniture, bedding or curtains.

Unplug electric heaters when you leave a room or go to bed, ensure a permanent safety guard is fitted, and never use flammable materials such as aerosols or cleaning fluids near heaters.

They should be positioned with the back of the heater against the wall and facing into a room and should not be moved when lit. Don’t dry clothes on heaters and do not stand too close as clothes can ignite easily.

10th January, 2012