London Fire Brigade warns against burning open fires to heat homes as energy bills rise

It comes after a dangerous blaze in New Malden was caused by a resident - who was taken to hospital - burning timber to heat his home instead of using gas heating.

Firefighters have urgently warned people not to light indoor fires to heat their homes, as energy bills and the cost of living crisis spark safety fears.

It comes after a blaze in southwest London was found to be due to burning timber on an open fire, instead of using gas central heating.

Photos of the damage from the fire show broken and charred windows at the front of a property in Kingston Road, New Malden, while burnt debris sits outside the building.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has now issued an urgent safety warning, fearing lives may be put at risk by people setting fires indoors to keep warm while slashing their energy costs.

Firefighters have urgently warned people not to light indoor fires to heat their homes, as energy bills and the cost of living crisis spark safety fears. Photo: London Fire Brigade

Deputy assistant commissioner Charlie Pugsley said: “We know this is a difficult time and people are thinking about ways to reduce their energy bills.

“But we’re really concerned that they may be putting lives at risk by doing so.”

Fire investigators have found there were more than 100 fires involving open flames, log burners and heaters in just the last few months alone.

The New Malden fire, which happened at the end of April, was thought to have been caused by combustible items too close to an open flame.

It was discovered by the resident, who was burning timber on an open fire in his living room to heat his home.

He was taken to hospital and the property sustained significant damage.

London Fire Brigade has issued an urgent safety warning following a recent fire in southwest London as rising energy bills hit UK homes. Photo: London Fire Brigade

DAC Pugsley added: “If you do have a log burner or an open fire, follow our advice carefully.

“Almost 30% of fires involving log burners, heaters and traditional open fires are caused by items being placed too close to a heat source.

“Always use a fire guard and keep anything that could catch alight well away, such as logs and kindling which could be ignited by radiating heat.

“It’s also important to make sure you have carbon monoxide alarms in your home. You can’t taste, see, or smell carbon monoxide fumes, but it can kill in minutes.

“Please also don’t take the risk by using treated wood on fires.

“Not only can they produce toxic fumes, but they are also more likely to spit embers when burnt, which could set alight to nearby objects.”

The fire service has issued safety advice regarding the fire risks of heaters and unconventional means of heating, which it is urging people to follow.

Leaving the oven or a hob on could cause a fire or produce toxic carbon monoxide fumes.

It has issued the following safety tips for log burners and open fires:

  • Keep chimneys and flues clean and well maintained;
  • Have a specialist chimney sweep - at least once a year for coal, twice if burning logs;
  • Sweeps must be certified by the National Association of Chimney Sweeps or HETAS;
  • Use a fireguard to protect against flying sparks and hot embers;
  • Before you go to bed, make sure fires or hot embers are under control and guarded;
  • Store logs away from solid fuel burners – radiated heat can cause them to burn;
  • Keep clothing and fabric well away from open fires and log burners;
  • Watch out for children and pets – supervise them carefully and use fire guards;
  • Fit a carbon monoxide alarm in all rooms containing solid fuel gas or paraffin heaters;
  • Familiarise yourself with the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning;
  • And learn what to do if you suspect there may be a carbon monoxide leak. 

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we have set out a £22bn package of support, including rebates and energy bill reductions.”

The fire service also highlighted schemes to help with energy bills, including contacting your local council, Citizens Advice, the Mayor of London’s Cost of Living Hub and SHINE London.

Londoners can also make sure their homes are safe by using the Brigade’s online Home Fire Safety Checker, which can provide tailored fire safety advice.