Fire warning for portable heaters

Group photo with several people including residents holding fire safety leaflets

Community fire safety officer Sam Hamer (centre) was at Greenfields assisted housing scheme in Bridgnorth with housing officers from Shropshire Housing Group to talk to residents about the dangers of portable heaters

A campaign to alert vulnerable householders about fire hazards from portable heaters has been launched countywide by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. To offset rising heating bills, some people are switching off their central heating and carrying portable heaters from room to room which can prove dangerous, say the brigade’s Community Fire Safety Officers. In more extreme incidents in Shropshire, elderly and vulnerable householders have balanced old fashioned electric bar heaters precariously on top of newspapers and phone books creating a fire hazard. The county’s fire and rescue service is working with housing officers from Shropshire Housing Group to help spread the word about the danger. “We have identified that more people are using portable heaters to heat single rooms as fuel costs rise and they just need to take extra precautions to ensure they are safe,” said Sam Hamer, community fire safety officer with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service. “January is normally the coldest month of the year so we do expect more people to use portable heaters.” Fires are caused by negligent use of equipment or supply, faulty heating devices, overheating, and combustibles being placed too near a heat source. “Fire in the home is a devastating experience for anyone and can cause death or serious injury,” said Sam. “We are targeting the sheltered housing scheme with the help of Shropshire Housing Group to talk to people about how they can avoid such fires in their homes. There are many steps you can take to prevent a fire from happening in the first place including ensuring you have a smoke alarm which works.” Ann Sutcliffe, executive director for neighbourhoods at Shropshire Housing Group, said: "There is no issue more important than the safety and welfare of our tenants and when there is an opportunity to help ensure their wellbeing through simple advice and education, we are more than happy to be involved. “We hope the advice from this excellent initiative by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service reaches as many people as possible, both directly and through the resulting word of mouth. Certainly the response from our tenants has been very positive." The number of fires caused by the incorrect use of portable heaters is on the increase nationwide as more people use them as a convenient way to heat their homes. With heating bills on the rise, many people use them as an alternative to central heating to cut down on costs. As part of the safety campaign, Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued the following guidelines:

  • Unplug electric heaters when you go out or go to bed
  • A permanent safety guard should be fitted
  • Store and change cylinders for portable gas heaters outside or in a well ventilated area
  • Use gas and paraffin heaters in a well ventilated area
  • Follow the manufacturers’ operating and maintenance instructions
  • Don’t use flammable materials aerosols or cleaning fluids near heaters
  • Children or pets should not be left unattended if portable heaters are switched on
  • Heaters should not be placed near furniture, curtains or bedding
  • Clothes can easily ignite if you stand or sit too close to heaters
  • Do not place them on uneven surfaces or where they can be easily knocked over
  • Never move a heater while it’s alight or switched on
  • Don’t dry clothes on them

For more advice, or to arrange a home fire safety visit call the community fire safety team on 01743 260 260.

15th January, 2014