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News items related to general safety, public safety information, key safety initiatives or projects.

Fire risk warning to West Midlands smokers

Stubbed out cigarettes in an ash tray

Smokers in the West Midlands are being urged to take extra care following a house fire which killed two men.

Fire investigators who examined the scene of the tragedy in Bushbury Lane, Wolverhampton believe that a cigarette ignited a sofa.

Stubbed out cigarettes in an ash tray

West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) responded to the fire at 2.03am on Monday 25 October. Crews from Bilston, Dudley, Fallings Park and Wolverhampton fire stations were met with a severe blaze on the ground floor.

Two men in their late forties were rescued. Very sadly, in spite of the efforts of firefighters and paramedics, one of the men died at the scene and the other in hospital.

Pete Wilson, WMFS’s Strategic Lead for Prevention, said: “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this awful incident. We will be preparing a full report for Her Majesty’s Coroner, but our investigators believe that the fire started when a cigarette ignited a sofa.

“It is a stark and sobering reminder of the fire risks associated with smoking. We are urging all smokers in the West Midlands to take extra care.

“Fires caused by smoking materials such as cigarettes, roll-ups, cigars and lighters result in more deaths than any other type of fire. In the five years to March of this year, smoking was a factor in a third of the 51 fire deaths in the communities we serve.

“In the same period, we recorded 613 fires related to smoking in people’s homes. That’s nearly eight per cent of all incidents to which our firefighters responded.

“Of course, we would much rather that people didn’t smoke but do appreciate that many people find it difficult to stop. Advice on giving up is available from the NHS and a range of other organisations, and our firefighters can share valuable safety advice in your home if you request one of our Safe and Well visits.”

In the five years to March 2021, nearly two thirds of smoking-related incidents attended by WMFS started in bedrooms, living rooms or in refuse, for example a bin or rubbish chute.

Falling asleep contributed to nearly 17 per cent of smoking-related fires in the home and distraction to 12 per cent.

Safety Tips for Smokers

  • always make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished
  • take extra care when you’re tired, taking any sort of drugs or have been drinking alcohol. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning. Never smoke in bed
  • never leave lit cigarettes, cigars or pipes unattended – they can easily overbalance as they burn down
  • use a proper, heavy ashtray that can’t tip over easily and is made of a material that won’t burn and don’t let the ash or cigarette ends build up in it
  • A small amount of water in the ashtray will help to make it safer
  • tap your hot ash into an ashtray, never a wastebasket or bin containing other rubbish
  • keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach. Ideally, buy child-resistant lighters and matchboxes.

If you’re looking to give up smoking and would like advice or support, visit the NHS website for help and guidance.

Caught on camera! Candle fire rips through flat

ceiling burning and smoke as candle fire rips through flat

A West Midlands man has warned people to take care with candles, after a home security camera caught a candle fire ripping through his flat.

Wazcar Abreu briefly left his home after lighting tealights. Just minutes later he returned to find it ablaze and ten West Midlands firefighters tackling the flames.

Footage from his security camera shows him lighting the tealights on a shelf, in memory of a relative. After he briefly pops out of his flat, the tealights ignite combustible items nearby. It takes just two minutes for the fire and smoke to consume the first-floor landing.

At the start of Home Safety Week, which is led by the National Fire Chiefs Council, we’re echoing Wazcar’s call for people to take extra care with candles and tealights.

He said: “I only left the flat for a few minutes but then got a call from a friend telling me what was happening.

“It all happened so quickly, the speed of the fire and the firefighters arriving. There was lots of fire and smoke. I still can’t believe it, so I want to send a message to people to please take care.”

We got the 999 call to Summer Road in Erdington from a passer-by. Just after 7.20pm on 14 May 2021 they saw a window being blown out by an aerosol exploding in the heat of the fire.

Two fire engines, from Ward End and Sutton Coldfield fire stations, arrived within five minutes.

Crew Commander Dave Bailey, from Ward End fire station, said: “It’s incredibly rare for a candle fire like this to be caught on camera. The footage not only shows the nightlights being lit but the speed at which the resulting fire develops.

“We needed to wear breathing apparatus and to force our way into the empty flat, before using hose reel jets to extinguish the flames.

“The fire damage was confined to the landing area, but could have been much worse. Fortunately, no-one was hurt but there was extensive smoke damage throughout.

“Please never leave burning candles unattended, even if only for a few seconds or minutes. Keep them well away from other combustible items. When you do blow them out, make sure they’re fully extinguished.

“Be sure to fit and regularly test smoke alarms on every level of your home and in the areas you use most. Whenever you leave home or go to bed, always close internal doors to help stop the spread of flames and smoke if there is a fire.”

Still candleAvoiding Candle Fires

Candles can create a relaxing or special atmosphere, but also bring fire into your home. So to avoid candle fires please use them carefully:

  • keep burning candles in sight and extinguish them before leaving a room or going to sleep
  • never burn a candle on, or near, anything that can catch fire
  • keep them out of the reach of children and pets, and away from anywhere they might knock them over
  • place burning candles at least three inches apart so they don’t melt one another or create draughts that can cause the candles to flare
  • always use a sturdy, heat-resistant candle holder on a heat-resistant surface that’s big enough to contain drips and melted wax
  • keep burning candles away from draughts, vents, ceiling fans and air currents. Draughts could also blow lightweight items into a flame where they could catch fire.

A candle with the wick smoking just after being put outPutting them out

Extinguishing candles with water could cause hot wax to splatter or a glass container to shatter. Instead, use a metal spoon or a snuffer. Make sure a candle is completely extinguished and the wick is no longer glowing before leaving the room. Never use a candle as a nightlight. Never touch or move a burning candle when the wax is liquid.

Find out more about keeping safe in the home on our Safety in the home page.

Keep looking while you’re cooking!

Firefighter shows wooden spoon with kitchen safety message

Firefighters in south Birmingham are hoping to stir residents into thinking about kitchen safety.  

Wooden spoons carrying the message ‘Keep looking while you’re cooking’ are set to be given out by fire crews following a rise in cooking-related fires.  

Firefighter shows wooden spoon with kitchen safety message

The handy safety reminders were the idea of firefighters at Bournbrook fire station, following a rise in kitchen fires on their patch as well as in the Kings Norton, Hay Mills, Sheldon and Billesley areas. 

Half of all accidental fires at home start in the kitchen, and often start when people get distracted while they’re cooking.  

Crew Commander Rob Hickinbotham, of Bournbrook Blue Watch, said: “A number of our fire stations have, unfortunately, seen a rise in the number of kitchen fires they’ve attended. 

“We’re still working to understand the reason, but it’s possible that the increase is linked to the coronavirus lockdowns. It’s possible that more people have been cooking at home more often, or in homes that have been much busier than usual. 

“Whatever the reason, we’re asking people to be really careful when they cook and not to get distractedfor example by their mobile phones, the TV or other people. 

We hope the wooden spoons will serve as a simple reminder to people to ‘keep looking while you’re cooking’. We’ll be giving them out with safety leaflets to people unlucky enough to have a kitchen fire, as well as their neighbours.”

A fire in the home can have devastating and long-lasting consequences – but many kitchen fires are avoidable:  

  • make sure you don’t get distracted when you’re cooking 
  • take pans off the heat, or turn the heat down, if you need to leave the kitchen 
  • make sure handles don’t stick out, so pans don’t get knocked off the hob 
  • take care if you’re wearing loose clothing, which can easily catch fire, and keep tea towels and cloths a safe distance away from the cooker 
  • never leave children alone in the kitchen 
  • double check the cooker is off when you’ve finished 
  • don’t cook if you’ve been drinking alcohol or taken medication that makes you drowsy. 

If you are unlucky enough to have a fire at home, never be tempted to tackle it yourself Always: Get out, stay out, call 999.

E-scoot safely!

A firefighter with an e-scooter and safety poster

Firefighters in Birmingham are urging users of Voi scooters to stay safe and be mindful of other road users and pedestrians.

The call comes as a trial of the two-wheeled e-scooters takes place in the city.

A firefighter with an e-scooter and safety poster

A safety campaign launched by Bournbrook Fire Station will be targeting riders, including students at The University of Birmingham which is on the station’s patch.

Firefighter Jack Hunter, of Bournbrook Blue Watch, said: “The e-scooters are a convenient and eco-friendly way of getting around, but need to be ridden and parked correctly and safely.

“It’s illegal to ride them on a pavement, where there’s a clear risk of colliding with someone. Parking them incorrectly can also cause a hazard for people trying to walk by.

“We’re definitely seeing the scooters around more often. Younger people are already more likely to be involved in road traffic collisions, so that’s why we’ll be trying to reach them with some simple e-scooter safety tips.”

Posters and social media graphics will target students at the university and other e-scooter riders with six safety messages:

Only Voi e-scooters are currently road-legal
Don’t drink and ride
Always wear a helmet
No tandem riding
Use the beginner mode to limit the speed if you’re a new user
Use the dedicated parking zones where possible.

More details can be found at and on the Voi website.

Be Water Aware Week 2021

A lifebouy floating in a swimming pool

West Midlands Fire Service is supporting the National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) Be Water Aware Week 2021 campaign to encourage people not to be complacent when spending time in and around water.

Water bouy and rings by a dock

Whether at home or away, we hope to educate and encourage people to stay safe by being aware of the risks.  

As the current Covid-19 restrictions ease it is anticipated many people will head to coastal locations and inland water beauty spots. Few people would think they might become a water incident statistic – but the fact is in the UK in 2019 more people died from accidental drowning than cyclists did on the road.  

Following simple advice will help reduce the 223 accidental drownings reported in 2019 and the many more injuries, which can be lifechanging, following water related incidents.

The advice includes:  

  • Never swim alone in case you need help 
  • Don’t drink alcohol when undertaking water related activities, it impairs judgement and your ability to swim 
  • Avoid walking routes near water if you have been drinking alcohol 
  • Don’t dive or jumping straight into open water, this can cause potentially fatal cold-watershock even on the warmest day  
  • Actively supervise children in and around water – drowning can happen fast and silently 
  • If you find yourself unexpectedly in the water, don’t panic, extend your arms and legs out and float on your back until the effect of cold-water shock pass
  • Never enter the water to try and rescue someone, call 999 and ask for the Fire Service if inland and the Coastguard if you are at the coast.

NFCC’s Drowning Prevention Lead Dawn Whittaker said:  

“We want people to enjoy spending time in and around water safely and that’s why we are asking people to be water aware. By highlighting this issue and making sure simple safety messages reach them, we hope to reduce the number of these needless and preventable deaths.”  

Look out for #BeWaterAware on our social media accounts for more information and advice this Be Water Aware Week 2021.