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Fire chief issues heater warning

PUBLISHED: 14:12 03 January 2002 | UPDATED: 11:06 03 March 2010

FOLLOWING the fire in Marlow Road, Ipswich, which claimed the life of 7-year-old Anton Fox, the fire service has issued a warning to householders to take extra care with portable heaters.

By Tracey Sparling

tracey.sparling@ecng.co.uk

TAKE extra care when using portable heaters, Suffolk Fire Service warned today in the wake of tragedy.

With the recent sub-zero temperatures, people may be tempted to leave heaters on overnight, but seven-year-old Anton Fox died in the early hours of yesterday , when flames engulfed his home in Marlow Road, Ipswich.

Assistant Divisional Officer Paul Seager said it was 'highly likely' that the portable electric fire was responsible for the blaze.

He said the heater was probably placed at the foot of a bed, and the source of the fire had been traced back to the area where the heater was.

He said the bars on the heater would have been very hot, and as it was sparking it could have easily set fire to anything combustible such as bedding.

It was an old style heater with a metal case. It had two bars, which glow bright orange when it is on.

Although it was made in England, it is believed to be fairly old. The exact make and model are unknown.

The heater was found badly damaged, with all the paintwork burnt off.

It was described as an old-style radiant heater with a metal case. It had two bars, which glow bright orange when it is on.

Although it was made in England, it is believed to be fairly old, and the exact make and model are unknown.

Police have now taken it away, and are keeping it ready to examine if the coroner later decides that is necessary.

Mr Seager said there were three important lessons, which could be learnt from this tragedy:

He said:

1) It is important that smoke detectors are fitted and to make sure that they are in working condition as it can give everyone a few extra minutes of warning.

2) Plan what to do in the event of a fire. Make sure you get out, get the fire brigade out and stay outside.

3) Make sure that any portable heating appliances are both well maintained and used in accordance to with the instructions. This applies to oil, gas and electric heaters. They should also be kept well away from combustible material.

Mr Seager said: "The main message is that portable appliances can be very useful and helpful, but it is important that you observe safety precautions if you do have to use them.

"They should be maintained in good working condition and checked for any defects like loose wires, and if there is any doubt then they should not be used.

"To reduce the risk of fires, don't stand them near fabrics, bedding, or clothes or use them to dray clothes. They should not be near where they could be knocked over by people or dogs or cats.

"If at all possible people should turn off portable heaters before retiring to bed."

Suffolk Fire Service also issues advice about other hazards in the home, because there were 58,300 accidental house fires in the UK in 1999.

These fires resulted in 408 deaths and over 12,500 casualties.

In 1999,

Cooking fires were responsible for 58pc of fires, 17pc of deaths and 55pc of injuries

Smoking materials caused 10pc of fires, 30pc of deaths (the biggest killer) and 15pc of injuries

Heating equipment caused 4pc of fires, 10pc of deaths, and 4pc of injuries.

Chimney fires:

If you use traditional open fires or woodburners to heat your home:

Chimneys must be swept regularly, at least once a year.

If you frequently burn wood on your open fire the chimney must be swept more often, as resin builds up in the chimney.

Flues to woodburners must also be inspected to ensure that heat cannot pass through to a combustible beam or roof structure.

Things to look out for include excessive smoke, embers falling back into the hearth, the walls of the chimney breast or adjacent walls becoming very hot to the touch or even flames showing from the pot.

Anybody who suspects their chimney may be on fire should call out the fire service immediately.

Candles:

Remove any wrappings from candles before lighting them.

Always place candles in sturdy holders that cannot fall over easily.

Do not stand candles in a window where they could set fire to curtains.

Lit candles should never be left unattended.

Always make sure candles are properly extinguished, especially before you go to bed at night.

Always use a torch rather than a candle if there is a power cut.

Electric blankets:

When buying an electric blankets look for the British Standard and kitemark and stay away from cheap imports.

Many fire and deaths are caused due to blankets being left accidentally switched on. Electric blankets should be switched off before getting into bed - unless marked for night use.

When in use the leads should hang freely and not be placed over the blanket or tucked under the mattress. Underblankets should always be tied securely to the mattress

A blanket should not be used if it is soiled or has scorch marks. If it gets wet it must be thoroughly dried before use. Do not use blankets with damaged leads or switches and ensure the correct fuse is used.

Do not fold electric blankets for storage purposes as this destroys the internal wiring. All too often blankets are placed in the in the top of the airing cupboard at the start of summer, only to work their way to the bottom as other items get placed on top.

Once your blanket is three years old is should be tested, by the manufacturer, on a regular basis.

In 2000, a campaign to check blanket safety found 40 per cent of the 449 tested, should be condemned.

Another 23pc had minor faults like wrong fuses fitted, and incorrectly wired plugs.

Chip and grill pan fires:

These account for a quarter of all domestic fires and cause an average of 46 deaths a year in the UK. There were 155 chip or grill pan fires in Suffolk in 1999.

Around 60pc of dwelling fires are caused by cooking related fires. The smoke that comes from a chip pan fire is deadly and the thousands of injuries caused can be made much worse when attempting to extinguish the fire with water.

When water is put onto hot oil it heats up, expands, turns to steam and rises in a big steam cloud.

Each particle of steam is coated in burning oil and if you are near it you will be badly burned.

Why not try oven or microwave chips or invest in a thermostat-controlled deep fat fryer?

Weblinks:

www.suffolkcc.gov.uk/fire/cfs/fire_safety_in_the_home.htm

www.rospa.org.uk/CMS/

www.geocities.com/suffolk_fire/

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