There has been a 5% increase in the number of house fires in England, according to analysis of official data by Direct Line.
More than one in 10 (11%) of these fires occur between midnight and 6am when householders are at their most vulnerable. And it’s not just the fire itself that causes havoc – smoke can damage clothes and upholstery while water used by firefighters can take weeks to dry out.
In 2015/16 (the latest fire statistics available from the Home Office), there were around 529,000 incidents attended by fire and rescue services in England - 7% more than in 2014/15 (496,000). The number of incidents has been on a general downward trend since the peak of about 1,016,000 incidents attended in 2003/04.
The Fire Statistics report suggests that the overall increase of 5% in fires in 2015/16 may be partly driven by an 8% increase in deliberate fires since 2014/15, which account for 45% of all fires.
Smokers’ materials - cigarettes, cigars or pipe tobacco - were the source of ignition in 7% of accidental house fires and 9% of house fires where there were casualties in 2015/16. More worrying is the fact that smokers’ materials were the source of ignition in 36% of deaths in accidental house fires.
The need for a working smoke alarm
Fires where a smoke alarm was not present accounted for 28% of all house fires and 33% (76) of all deaths from house fires in 2015/16. Some 11% of homes did not having a working smoke alarm in 2015/16. Mains-powered alarms continue to have a lower failure rate than battery-powered alarms. Some 21% of mains-powered smoke alarms and 38% of battery-powered smoke alarms failed to operate in house fires in 2015/16 in England.
On a positive note, the number of households with a working smoke alarm has gone up from 76% in 2001 to 89% in 2016.
Katie Lomas, the firm’s director of home insurance, says: “A house fire is anyone’s worst nightmare, not only because of the danger and distress it can cause your family, but the trauma of seeing your priceless and sentimental possessions destroyed.”
The insurer has launched a new service pledging to find policyholders whose home has been left uninhabitable an emergency hotel within one hour of their reporting the claim and it will pay upfront for it.
Direct Line says the hotel will be at least of three-star standard and conveniently situated to your home anywhere in the UK, except for the Highlands and islands.
Customers can choose whether the hotel is near a railway station, their kids’ school and that it accepts pets.
Ms Lomas says: “We are always looking for new ways to make life easier for our customers and protect them should the worst happen. The last thing someone needs after a fire in their home is to be left stranded with nowhere to go. This new service ensures that when customers are at their most vulnerable they are offered safe and secure hotel accommodation within one hour, giving them a little peace of mind at a very difficult time.”