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House fire caused by electric blanket drives elderly couple from their home

Faulty electric blankets cause over 5000 house fires in the UK every year
Kent Fire and Rescue Service has issued an electric blanket safety warning after a house fire in Tonbridge
Kent Fire and Rescue Service is issuing an electric blanket safety warning after a house fire in Tonbridge left an elderly couple needing to be temporarily re-housed.

The fire broke out in an upstairs bedroom of their two-storey home in Brook Street in the early hours of Sunday morning as the couple slept. They awoke to a smouldering fire at the end of their bed and as the flames developed they managed to escape from the property and alert the emergency services.

Three fire appliances, two from Tonbridge and one from Southborough, attended the scene and crews wearing breathing apparatus promptly extinguished the blaze.

The residents were uninjured, but the fire, which is believed to have been caused by a faulty electric blanket, caused extensive damage to the bedroom and left the first floor severely smoke logged.

The Red Cross Victim Support Service was called to the scene to help the occupants find somewhere else to stay and offer practical assistance in the aftermath of the fire.

Tonbridge Station Manager Paul Ramsden said: "As people try to keep warm during the cold weather, we want to remind all residents of added fire dangers in the home. Firstly, make sure that you have a working smoke alarm fitted in every level of your home. In this instance the occupants were extremely lucky to escape uninjured as there was no smoke alarm on the upper floor of the property to alert them to the blaze. The consequences could easily have been far more serious.

"Secondly, if you use an electric blanket to keep warm, make sure you get it tested. Although they are not dangerous in themselves, blankets that are over 10 years old or that haven't been tested in the last year present an increased risk of starting a fire."

Nationally over 5000 fires a year are caused by faulty electric blankets, with 20 of these resulting in death.

In the UK, over 5000 fires a year are caused by faulty electric blankets, with 20 of these resulting in death

By following the advice below, you can help to ensure that you and your loved ones are less likely to fall victim of such a fire:

  • Don't fold electric blankets. Protect the wiring inside them by storing them flat or rolled up
  • Don't leave an electric blanket switched on all night, unless it is thermostatically controlled so it can be used all night
  • Electric blankets should carry the British Standard Kitemark and the British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) symbol on them 
  •  Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when using an electric blanket
  • Get your blanket tested regularly either by returning it to the manufacturer, or by an approved contractor
  • If your blanket is over ten years old, or showing signs of wear - replace it with a new one

As is standard practice after an incident of this nature, the local crews will be visiting the area offering residents free home safety visits.

If you would like any fire safety advice or would like to arrange a fire home safety visit contact the community safety team for free on 0800 923 7000. The visit is free and firefighters will fit, if required, a free ten-year smoke alarm. They take about 30 minutes and include tips on night-time routines, cooking safely with oil or fat, the dangers of smoking materials, care with candles, electrical safety and planning escape routes in the event of fire.

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