Common causes of domestic fires

Electrical appliances and kitchen related items are often the main source for domestic fires in the UK.

Electrical fires
Electricity is used to power just about everything in today’s modern home. However, plugging your television, games console and mobile phones into one socket is simply asking for trouble.  Overloading the socket will cause the cables to overheat which will damage the insulation over time. The best way to avoid electrical fires is by not overloading plug sockets and keeping the use of extension packs to an absolute minimum.

Kitchen fires
Kitchen fires are without doubt the most common cause of domestic fires. With electricity, fats, gas, wood and a number of chemicals to be found in your kitchen, you need to make sure you take every precaution possible to minimise the chances of a fire occurring. Never overheat or overfill chip pans (having a deep fat fryer with a thermostat is even better). Furthermore, avoid storing oily or chemical stained rags under the sink; instead wash them thoroughly or keep them outside. Along with heat alarms, fire blankets and ABF fire extinguishers are an essential purchase for any kitchen as they can enable you to quickly deal with any small fires that might flare up on hobs and grill pans.

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Pan fires and fire extinguishers

Deep fat fryer fires and pan fires with burning fat are difficult to extinguish. The jet of an ordinary extinguisher can carry the burning fat out of the pan and spread the fire, making the problem worse. Any traditional water based extinguishers can also be dangerous, as water droplets sink into the fat and then erupt violently, spreading the fire. The five most commonly used methods of extinguishing fat fires are:

1) wet chemical extinguishers

2) fire blankets

3) dry water mist extinguishers

4) ABF fire extinguishers

5) Foam Aerosols

Wet chemical extinguishers

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are usually supplied with a long lance which helps to safely deploy the foam. The wet chemical forms a thick soapy foam-like blanket over the surface of the burning oil/fat which stops oxygen from reaching the fire and smothers the flames. This process is known as saponification, which is an endothermic process that not only ensures that the additive penetrates the fat/oil and creates a seal, but also cools it to below the ignition temperature, thus preventing the oil/fat from re-igniting

Fire blankets

Fire blankets are spread over the burning pot or pan and exclude oxygen which suffocates the fire. It is crucial to leave the fire blanket on top of the container even when the flames have gone, as the hot fat would re-ignite again should the blanket be removed.

Dry Water mist extinguishers

Portable dry water mist extinguishers create a microscopic mist with low pressure which settles onto the surface of the fire without sinking in. As the water droplets evaporate above the surface, the fire cools and oxygen is excluded. Dry water mist also protects the user from the flames, as the mist forms a heat barrier.

ABF fire extinguishers

These extinguishers resemble a normal fire extinguisher and contain a foam suitable for burning fat.

Aerosols

Whilst formally not classified as extinguishers, these foams are a low cost solution for domestic kitchens with cooking oil.

Man Saved From Home Fire by Neighbour

A 49 year old man, Mr Kennedy,  was rescued from a fire at his home by his neighbour. The fire started as a result of Mr Kennedy starting to cook his dinner but falling asleep whilst the meal was cooking.

The fire had already spread so much that the neighbour, Mr Hudson, was unable to enter the premises. Mr Hudson raised the alarm with the fire brigade and shouted up to the window for Mr Kennedy to wake up.

As a result of the neighbour’s actions Mr Hudson was able to escape the fire, but unfortunately his pet dog died in the blaze.

The blaze could have been prevented had Mr Hudson not left the cooker unattended or if a stove alarm would have been fitted.

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