10 April 2012

Every five days, someone in the UK dies from a fire caused by cigarettes or smoking materials. That’s the harsh reality of smoking says Northamptonshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service.

In the UK smoking is the single biggest killer in accidental fires in the home, often because of careless behaviour such as smoking in bed or not taking care after drinking alcohol.

From April 2010 to April 2011 the county’s fire and rescue service attended 28 house fires that were smoking related. One of these tragically ended up as a fatal incident. In addition there were many other fires caused by matches and lighters.

Community Protection Officer, Lisa Bryan said:
“We want every smoker to realise that smoking can be bad for your health in more ways than one. We want to encourage people to drop the habit of smoking whilst in bed or under the influence of alcohol. In these cases the risk of falling asleep before you ‘put it out, right out’ is just too great. When smokers fall asleep with a lit cigarette in hand, they are very close to the resulting fire and this seriously lowers their chance of escaping safely.”

These simple steps can help to prevent a smoking related fire in the home:

  • Never smoke in bed. Take care when you’re tired – it’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight.
  • Never smoke when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If your lit cigarette starts a fire you could be less able to escape.
  • Put it out, right out! Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished.
  • Fit a smoke alarm and test it weekly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.
  • Never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down.
  • Use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn.
  • Ensure the ashtray contents are cold before disposing into an external waste bin. Consider wetting the ashtray contents with cold water prior to emptying into the waste bin.

Lisa added: “Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke can render you unconscious, so we urge people to invest in a working smoke alarm. It can give you the extra time you need to escape if the worst should happen. Without a working smoke alarm you are four times more likely to die in an accidental fire in the home.”