National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC): Home Fire Safety Week
This NFCC public awareness campaign focuses on the main risks of fire in the home, appropriate home detection and the behaviours to help mitigate these risks. As a fire service focused on our community, we need to ensure that every person has access to us and knows how to access our services that include a free of charge Home Fire Safety Visit.
A Home Fire Safety Visit is available for anybody who is residing in Hertfordshire, regardless of their tenure or type of property. This includes communities that live in trailers and caravans. In these properties, there are various ignition sources including electric, gas and solid fuel. There could also be limited amounts of sockets in trailers and with the increased use of electrical appliances, this could mean there is a possibility of unsafe electrics and overuse of electrical extension leads.
Which leads us to an incident we recently attended…
At 18:33 on the 9th of April 2023, fire engines from Hatfield, Potters Bar and Welwyn Garden City attended a caravan well alight and the fire was spreading.
Apprentice Firefighter Search from Potters Bar who was at the incident said:
“We were mobilised to a caravan fire and on the approach to the incident, we could see large plumes of dark smoke in the distance. We were the first pump in attendance and on arrival, there was one mobile home well alight and fully engulfed in flames and the mobile home adjacent to it was also partially alight. I began to approach the alight mobile home while fighting the fire and as I was knocking back the fire, I was working my way closer, so I was able to knock it back and get right up to the mobile home. I then proceeded to fight the fire from close range and work my way down the left side of the mobile home towards the back. At this point my breathing apparatus (BA) partner and team lead joined me and proceeded to direct me on what areas to focus on. We also noticed quite a few LPG cylinders towards the back of the mobile home, we did a wet water test to see if the water evaporated checking if they had heated in the fire. We also used the thermal imaging camera (TIC) and they seemed to be unaffected. Once all the flames had been put out, we proceeded to enter the mobile home from the right-hand side and begin the damping down process, applying a lot of water to cool the property down. We also used the TIC to scan and see if there were any particularly hot spots. Afterwards, I had a debrief with my WC on what I saw and if I noticed any foul play or reason to believe arson, I did not see either and relayed that.”
Apprentice Firefighter Pratten from Welwyn Garden City said:
“On our first night shift we were called to a caravan fire. We were the third pump in attendance and when we arrived our first task was to establish a water supply from the closest hydrant. Between myself and two others we ran out ten lengths of hose to the nearest working hydrant (to put this into context, one length of hose is 25 metres long). Hose ramps were also used as we had to cross a main road. After we had set into the hydrant, me and one other were tasked with looking over one of the individuals that had been in the caravan when it caught fire. We checked the gentleman’s stats and recorded them on a casualty form and then I was tasked with one Apprentice Firefighter Search with damping down the caravan and using the TIC to identify any hot spots. This lasted for 20/30 mins until the Officer in Charge (OIC) was satisfied.
Damping down was interesting as we were also trying to look for a cause for the fire starting. Instead of just focusing on the hot spots we were looking for items within the caravan which could have caused the fire.”
Station Commander Cinato who is Hertfordshire’s Risk Reduction Manager in Fire Prevention also attended the incident:
“I attended the above incident as part of my role as Flexi Duty Officer, in part due to the number of appliances attending, the potential life risk and risk of escalation. Having liaised with the Officer in Charge (OIC), I was satisfied with their tactical plan, priorities, and resource requirements; the fire had already been suppressed and any further fire spread prevented. All persons had been accounted for, with one adult male suffering smoke inhalation – who received medical attention from HFRS personnel and was subsequently handed over to the ambulance for further treatment and monitoring.
‘In the absence of needing to assume command of the incident, I instead informed the OIC that I would perform the Operational Assurance (OA) role. This role provides opportunity to mentor individuals, monitor performance, identify best practice, any development needs, potential gaps in service policy, equipment deficiencies and identifying any emerging trends or risk critical information that may need communicating further relating to operational response. On this occasion a report was subsequently submitted, praising the Crew for their initial actions, as these inevitably limited the spread of fire and an escalation of the incident.’
‘I’d like to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of having working smoke detection within domestic dwellings; if this incident had occurred later in the evening, whilst residents slept, it could have had devastating results – over and above the loss of two caravans. The free home fire safety visit will include the free installation of smoke detectors where needed, along with specific advice and guidance on how to remain safe from fire in the home.”
Fire safety in caravans
- If there is a fire, get out, stay out and call 999.
- Fit a smoke detector and check it once a week.
- Use a Gas Safe engineer to check or fix gas heaters.
- Turn off all appliances before you go to bed.
- Don’t run electrics from one mobile home to another.
- Don’t overload plug sockets.
- Do not leave candles unattended and always make sure candles are secure.
- Smoke outside rather than inside.
- Keep matches and lighters out of children’s reach.
- Use battery-operated candles rather than real candles.
- Take extra care when cooking with hot oil.
- Never leave cooking unattended.
Fire safety outside of caravans
- Try to keep your home at least six metres apart from others (that’s roughly the length of three people standing in a line with their arms out).
- Find out where your nearest fire hydrant is and keep it clear from overgrown vegetation.
- Remove any litter and rubbish near the caravan to reduce the risk of fire spreading.
If you do need to call the fire service for a caravan fire
Depending on where your caravan or mobile home is located, it could be hard to reach so make sure you tell the Control Operator:
- the full address or you can use www.what3words.com
- if access to the fire will be difficult for fire engines
- if there will be problems accessing water supplies.
It can also be helpful to send someone to meet the Fire and Rescue Service when they arrive.
This incident again shows the importance of having working smoke alarms, testing them regularly and the importance of the Home Fire Safety Visits that are carried out in the local community by the fire service. .