Pets the focus of new fire safety campaign

Stop putting your animals at risk – that’s the message from firefighters, and a number of special guests,  as they launch a new safety campaign aiming to drive down electrical fires across South Yorkshire.

Figures released by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue today, to coincide with Black Friday, show there have been more than 350 electrical house fires in the county over the last three years.

Data also shows that crews have attended over 76 house fires in the last three years where pets were involved – highlighting that it isn’t just humans who can be affected by fire.

With most of these incidents being described by fire officers as easily preventable – the service has joined forces with a number of local ‘celebs’ to produce a series of online videos that highlight some of the everyday electrical fire risks in the home.

Sheffield Lord Mayor Magid Magid joins Pete McKee, Radio Sheffield’s Sam Cleasby and her husband, and former Arctic Monkeys tour manager, Timm Cleasby, in the series – with the first of which being launched today on social media.

The launch of these videos will also be followed by a range of stalls and educational talks across the county – with people across South Yorkshire urged to act on the three pieces of advice being given out by the fire service.

Area Manager Steve Helps, head of the joint police and fire community safety department, said: “When you leave the house in a morning, with the washing machine on and various electrical devices on charge, do you ever think about how your dog, or maybe your rabbit, would escape in the event of a fire? How about your fish, or budgie?

“Anybody who has a pet knows that they are part of the family but they are often overlooked when it comes to escaping in an emergency – with fire as a prime example. We know people are busy and don’t want to ask too much, so we’ve pulled out three simple things that people can do to keep their animal friends safer.

“Most of our electrical fires could have been easily prevented and the most common causes are things like leaving electrical appliances (like washing machines and tumble dryers) on overnight and when people are out, as well as overloading plug sockets.

“Buying ‘knock-off’ electrical equipment, which does not meet safety standards is also something we strongly discourage, as it can be prone to malfunctioning and starting fires. A good rule of thumb is that if it sounds too cheap to be true, it probably is.”

The service’s three top tips to safeguard your pets from electrical fires are:

  • Don’t leave appliances on, and devices charging, at night and when you’re out of the house – to eliminate the risk of these malfunctioning and catching fire.
  • Buy electrical equipment which is genuine and from trusted sources – ‘knock off’ phone chargers and batteries are prone to setting on fire.
  • Don’t overload plug sockets – exceeding the advised current rating (13 amps) can cause them to overheat and catch fire.

Earlier this month firefighters from Central and Lowedges were called to reports of a fire on Reney Road, Sheffield. Upon arrival they found a dog trapped inside a heavily smoke logged flat after a toaster had completely melted.

A different incident, which took place a year ago on Princess Street, Doncaster, saw two dogs trapped in their smoke-filled house during a kitchen fire. They had a lucky escape that day but their owner, Shaleen Ross, said it could have been much worse.

“When you leave the house you don’t think about what might happen when you’re out, especially to your pets,” she added.

“Fortunately the dogs found an air pocket, they got lucky, but we still had to move out of the house for three months as they kitchen was destroyed and there was smoke damage to other areas of the house. It was six weeks before Christmas too.

“Our smoke alarms did activate and were going off for a while, but nobody noticed. All I would say is be careful and make sure things are switched off before you leave the house, especially when you’ve got pets who aren’t able to get themselves out.”

More recently, on Sunday 17 November, crews from Doncaster and Edlington attended a house fire on Anchorage Lane, in Sprotbrough, which was caused by a faulty washing machine that had been left on overnight.

Following the fire, Watch Manager Gary Ridgeway, who was the incident commander on the night, has called for people to make sure washing machines, tumble dryers, dishwashers and other electrical appliances are switched off overnight.

He said: “This incident started after the occupant got in at night and turned the washing machine on before he went to bed. There was a fault in the washing machine which started the fire, filled the kitchen with smoke and caused a significant amount of damage to the property.

“At 2am in the morning, the two people who lived at the house would have had nowhere to go, had it not have been for their neighbours. Fortunately the smoke alarms sounded and they were able to get out, so the outcome wasn’t too bad.

“This is a serious issue for us, though. People think that putting the washer on overnight will be cheaper and save time. It may do, in some cases, but you have to think about the risk and what could happen if there’s a fault and you’re not there to react quickly.

“I would say it’s just not worth it, the cost of some electricity and time is nothing compared to the lasting damage that comes with a fire – be it injury to you, your family or a pet, a kitchen that is completely destroyed or something far worse.”

This content was last updated on December 10th, 2018