The LWF Blog

Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Causes of Fire – Part 67

October 13, 2020 10:42 am

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 66, LWF talked about fire statistics and how often people are the ultimate cause of fire. In part 67, we continue to look at statistics and consider how this should inform fire prevention and avoidance in the future.

In the U.K., fire statistics are published each year by the Home Office (prior to 2016, this was the responsibility of the Department for Communities and Local Government). Significantly, the statistics point to the fact that more than half of all fires result from the same few causes – arson, electrical appliances and wiring and smoking or associated materials.

While those figures do include fires in domestic premises, if they are removed it only reinforces the three sources of ignition in industrial and commercial premises. The most common cause of fires in domestic premises is cooking activities, once removed, it shows that over two thirds of fires in non-domestic premises result from arson, electrical faults or smokers’ materials.

Of course, the causes of fire vary from one type of premises to another. In industrial buildings, the majority of fires are caused by electrical distribution or electrical appliance faults. In hotels too, electrical appliances and faults are the highest category, but in hotels, cooking appliances also feature very highly.

In schools, arson is by far the highest cause of fire, along with being the biggest cause in recreational and cultural services buildings.

In retail premises electrical appliances and faults are about equal with instances of arson as the top causes of fire. In healthcare buildings, electrical appliances/faults and cooking appliances are both very high with arson only narrowly behind.

Arson is the single most common cause of fire in non-domestic premises. It is seen most predominantly in buildings where the public have access and is less common in industrial premises owing to stricter access control and security.

Cutting, welding and blowlamps are a small but significant contributor to the causes of fire. Contractor operations and the relevance of fire safety on construction sites is currently being addressed in our Fire Engineering blog series.

Places where food is prepared on a large scale or professionally – hotels, restaurants, hospitals etc. are inclined to have fires caused by cooking processes, but in other premises and occupancies, cooking appliance fires are less common.

In part 68, LWF will continue to look at the implications of fire statistics and the conclusions that can be drawn from them. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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