New research reveals extent of electrical fires in Wales

Reporter:

Jamie Bowman

Statistics show electrical fires are a serious concern in Wales.

Last year there were 1,934 electrical blazes out of a total of 3,3101 accidental domestic fires, meaning 58 per cent of fires in Wales were caused by electricity.

That represents six fires per 10,000 people living in the country. This is higher than in England where Greater Manchester has been identified as the most dangerous place to live, with five fires per 10,000 people.

Fires of an electrical origin in Wales resulted in a staggering 2,852 people being killed or injured in 2015-16 – an average of five people each week.

White goods, including ovens, tumble dryers and fridge freezers, were the leading cause of electrical-related fatalities and injuries with 178 incidents.

The Welsh Government has agreed to research the underlying causes of why these electrical fires in Wales are occurring and one charity is demanding they come forward with a new package of measures that tackles the issue head on.

Electrical Safety First (ESF) is a UK charity dedicated to reducing and preventing damage, injuries and death caused by electricity.

The charity campaigns on behalf of consumers and electrical trade professionals to improve safety regulation and ensure safety messages are appropriate, up to date and well communicated and are recognised by government and industry as the leading campaigning charity and technical authority on electrical safety.

Among the measures ESF is recommending are a target of a 10 per cent reduction in fires of electrical origin over the next five years, a focus on protecting older people in Wales and a safety campaign for Welsh consumers on fires caused by electricity in Wales.

Robert Jervis-Gibbons, public affairs manager at ESF, said: “Wales has major problems with fires caused by electricity which the charity has raised with the Welsh Government on numerous occasions.

“We are pleased that research has started by the Government on understanding the exact cause of many of these fires, but the Welsh public need to be informed of the risks now and we need to see the Welsh Government come forward with a proper package of measures to tackle fires caused by electricity across the country.”

One person who is getting fully behind the campaign is Marford woman Michelle Harvey, who experienced the devastating impact of an electrical fire when her faulty dishwasher caught fire in April this year.

Thankfully, Michelle was at home at the time and managed to escape with her partner Neil Thomas from the flat on the village’s Hawthorn Road.

“We were upstairs tidying when we could hear the blinds cracking at the windows downstairs,” said Michelle. “Neil is very safety conscious. He thought we might have left the windows open and went to check.

“The next thing he was screaming that there was a fire and to get out. I ran downstairs to see the hallway covered in thick black smoke and flames pouring out the front of the dishwasher door.”

Crews used two hose reel jets and four sets of breathing apparatus to tackle the fire and it was five months before the family could move back into their home.

There was thousands of pounds worth of damage and every room needed redecorating.

“All of the children’s cuddly toys had to be binned due to smoke damage,” explained Michelle. “I’d kept their swimming certificates and pictures from school in the kitchen cupboard – they’re the sentimental things that can’t be replaced.”

Michelle added the fire serves as a serious warning to everyone to check their appliances.

“Our landlord hadn’t bought the
machine,” she said.

“It came with the house when they purchased it and was there when we moved in. We had no idea of its history or that it had been recalled.

“It was an accident waiting to happen and I’m so relieved we were there when it did and not out or asleep.

“I worry that there are a lot of other people living with recalled products who haven’t been notified. We are very vigilant now and always register our appliances so we can be notified of any recalls.

“We are all guilty of it – leaving our machines on while out or going to bed.

“Now we would never do that and neither would our friends or family. We’ve done everything in our power to protect ourselves from something like this happening again – we’ve even bought an electrical fire extinguisher.”

Stuart Millington, senior fire safety manager for North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Often in fires we encounter items which are subject to recall, but are still being used by residents.

“We would appeal to all residents to ensure their electrical items are in good working order and to log on to the recall register to check on the appliances in their home.

“The majority of products in your home will be safe, but you should regularly check to ensure none of your household appliances are subject to a recall.

“To check items under recall please visit www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk

“If you are concerned about a product that doesn’t appear on the recall list, stop using it immediately and make your concern known to the retailer, manufacturer or local Trading Standards office.”

Mr Millington added: “Always ensure new electrical items are registered, so manufacturers can contact you in the event of any problems.

”Go to www.registermy appliance.org.uk for more information and to register your electric products.

“Also electrical appliances need to be operated to manufacturers’ instructions and residents should take simple steps to cut the risk of an electrical fire.

“Don’t overload plug sockets, regularly check for worn or frayed wires, unplug appliances when not in use, keep appliances clean and in good working order and fully unwind extension cables prior to their use.

“Our advice is to be as prepared as possible in the event of fire by ensuring that working smoke alarms are fitted in your home and that you have clear escape routes to enable you and your family to exit your home as quickly as possible.”

lFor advice and safety tips on protecting your home from electrical fires and accidents visit electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/saferhomes, or search #SaferHomes on social media.

Email:

jamie.bowman@nwn.co.uk

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