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Property has been destroyed and homes have been seriously damaged nearly 800 times a year as a result of faulty or mistakenly used electrical appliances, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has revealed.
These fires have led to a total of 218 people recorded as having been injured as a result over the past three years – an average of 73 people a year.
Analysis of incidents over the past three years (April 2017 to March 2020), has shown an average of 786 fires a year were traced to a cause involving electrical equipment.
• 409 fires caused by faulty wiring, cabling and plugs
• 111 fires caused by electric lighting
• 96 fires caused by heaters, fires or heating equipment
• 82 fires caused by washing machines and tumble or spin dryers
• 59 fires caused by power generation equipment, such as batteries or generators
• 29 fires caused by fridge/freezers, dishwashers and kettles
The figures – released on Monday 23 November to mark the start of national Electrical Fire Safety week – include faults with the electrical appliances and related causes, such as faults with the wiring and with the way the appliance has been used, for example by a heater catching light to furniture or food setting light in a microwave oven.
The impact of these fires can be very serious.
Although in most cases the fire was contained in the room where it started, in seven per cent of cases the fire had spread beyond the room where the fire started, and in three per cent of cases it affected the whole building.
As part of their incident log GMFRS records whether anyone in the property suffered injury, but the seriousness of the injury is not recorded because this is a judgement of the NHS staff who treat the victims.
GMFRS Head of Prevention, Paul Duggan, said: “Faulty electrical equipment, loose wiring, frayed cabling and overloaded sockets can all spark a fire.
“In addition, the way electrical appliances like heaters are used can set light to whatever is next to them – such as curtains, furniture or your own clothing.
“And the contents of something like a microwave oven or a tumble dryer can set light and spread if it is set too hot or runs for too long.
“It’s particularly important to check the safety of electrics at this time of year, when people may be using an electric heater for the first time this winter, or they may be plugging in items like Christmas lights which have been in storage for a year.”
Electrical Fire Safety week is led by the charity Electrical Safety First, in collaboration with the National Fire Chiefs Council.
They are warning this year to beware of buying fake, sub-standard and potentially deadly electronic items from online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay, where a lack of regulation means sellers are not subject to the same standards as trusted manufacturers.
A fire may start in the charger as well as the appliance and GMFRS has recently had to deal with fires that have started in the charger of e-cigarettes that have been bought cheaply from unregulated suppliers.
Recycle for Greater Manchester, which operates the region’s household waste and recycling centres, is also urging people not to place battery operated electrical items in their general rubbish bin.
This is because the battery may spark a fire, even if it is “dead”, if it later crushed or damaged. This usually happens in the waste disposal site and can lead to serious fires.
Recycle for Greater Manchester is asking instead for these items, along with mains-powered faulty or damaged electrical appliances, to be stored safely at home during the current Covid restrictions and then brought to the household waste and recycling centre when it is safe to do so.
Paul added: “Fires in electrical appliances can become very serious. At the very least they will destroy the appliance, but they can also cause great damage to the room they are in.
“If the fire spreads or takes hold it can cause very serious damage to people’s homes. We can see also that they lead to dozens of people suffering a health injury too.
“However, people can take simple precautions that can minimise the risk, by checking over their electrics and appliances, taking care where they buy products, and making sure what they use is safe.
“A working smoking alarm on each level of your home will also alert you to a fire.”
Further information on safe use of electrical appliances is available on the GMFRS website.