Five summer fire risks you can't afford to ignore
Harry Woodage is an expert in fire safety at Allsaved. Here, he discusses five potential causes of fire during the summer and explains how to protect against disaster.
Fire is a threat at all times of the year, and every season brings its own particular dangers. During the summer months, hot dry conditions can spark a blaze, causing devastation to buildings and putting lives at risk.
More and more offices are installing air conditioning to keep their staff cool in a heatwave, and AC units are becoming increasingly popular in the home too. The importance of regular servicing and maintenance of air conditioning equipment cannot be over-emphasised. Worn out filters can accumulate flammable dirt and dust particles, and if heat builds up due to faulty wiring or other malfunctions this could cause a fire.
It’s also important to mention that air conditioning units should be included in a fire risk assessment of any building. Their job is to circulate air – exactly what you want on a hot day - but if fire breaks out the air con will literally fan the flames. It’s vital therefore to ensure that a process is in place to shut down air conditioning in the event of a blaze in your building.
On a warm day, there’s nothing better than a barbecue in your garden, or a company cook-out with colleagues. Whether you use a charcoal or gas barbecue, fire safety should never be far from your mind.
Ensure that barbecues are lit at a safe distance from sheds, trees, shrubs or waste bins. Place the barbecue on flat ground, and keep a bucket of water or sand nearby in case of emergency. Change gas cylinders outdoors in a well-ventilated area.
Do not pour petrol or any flammable liquid on a charcoal barbecue to get it going. Use firelighters instead, and bear in mind that you might have to be patient and wait a few extra minutes for that perfectly cooked burger!
Lightning strikes on buildings are rare, but every year they cause destruction to scores of properties in the UK. If lightning hits your home or office, you’re at risk from falling masonry and power surges, electric shocks and fire.
At the first sign of a storm, unplug electrical equipment and stay away from windows, doors and exterior walls. Even if a building seems untouched after a storm has passed, it’s wise to check loft spaces, attics or office store rooms in case of a smouldering fire.
Bin bags, old furniture, discarded packaging . . . waste like this can build up outside a building and present a fire risk, especially in the summer months when the slightest spark from a discarded cigarette or an unattended barbecue could start an accidental fire. Strong sunlight refracting through glass can also ignite combustible materials, so if you have a row of bottles waiting to be recycled, don’t leave them on a window sill where they are likely to catch the sun.
Wildfires are a growing problem in the UK, as the tinderbox conditions of summer 2018 have shown to devastating effect. Our Fire and Rescue Services tackle about 70,000 grassland fires a year, so it’s no wonder that wildfire was recognised as a ‘significant hazard’ and added to the national risk register of civil emergencies in 2012.
Most UK wildfires are confined to heaths, moors and forests, and do not threaten human life. However, scientists believe that with our changing climate, wildfires will become increasingly destructive, spreading to properties in areas that were once thought safe. As the spate of wildfires this year has shown, this is a clear danger that needs to be taken seriously.