Thursday, 19 February 2015

Help cut the risk of electrical fires with an early spring clean

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to carry out an early spring clean of their electrical intake area following a serious fire in a packed cupboard under the stairs.

It follows a fire in Brighton on 3 February 2015, where electrical intake equipment caught alight, risking fire spreading to a number of household items located close to the equipment.

Firefighters were called to the address on Ditchling Road at 5.27 in the morning following reports of smoke.

Dave Statham, Watch Manager on Green Watch at Preston Circus Community Fire Station said:

“When we arrived at the property, the owner had been woken up by his smoke alarm, smelt and saw smoke, dialled 999 and evacuated his house, which is exactly the right procedure for people to follow.

On arrival, it was clear there was a fire. I committed two firefighters wearing breathing apparatus, with a thermal imaging camera, two CO2 fire extinguishers and a hose reel jet. They entered the property.

The fire was the actual electrical meter which had decomposed, ignited and set fire to the wooden mounting board behind. This in turn would have easily set fire to the under-stairs area due to the nature of its design, which is the same for most of the properties of that era.

The fire was extinguished. Although the fire was small, the smoke was significant and we removed it from the property using a Positive Pressure ventilation fan. I hasten to add, the smoke alarm gave the owner more time to get out safely. If he did not have an alarm, or it was not working, the outcome could have been very different."

Pictures of the fire reveal significant fire damage to the meter and the back board. There were also a number of combustible items including a petrol can stored in the cupboard which could have easily caught fire.

What’s electrical intake equipment?

Electrical intake equipment comprises of a number of components; incoming cable, main fuse, meter, consumer units and all connections. During normal use electrical energy can create some heat which in fault conditions may lead to excessive heating sufficient to cause a fire, especially if combustible items are very close.

Example of an electrical intake

Clear out the clutter
Steve Wright from the Community Safety Team at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has this advice:

 “We know that cupboards like this are incredibly useful spaces for storing items. However, where they also house electrical intake equipment, and especially where they may be located on your exit route from the building, you need to be aware of the potential risk of any fault within this equipment starting a fire that could spread and cut off your escape route. 

A good clear out on a regular basis can make a real difference. Throw away items you don’t need and try to find somewhere else for items which will catch alight quickly, such as old newspapers or paint tins. Never store petrol in these cupboards or anywhere else inside your property.

Ensure any items that you must store near to any electrical equipment are not touching it and are kept as far away as possible.

If you have any concerns over the condition of your intake equipment or there are  any signs that it may be over heating such as smells of burning, discolouration or dripping bitumen from connections then report these immediately to your electricity supplier.

One final piece of advice is to make sure that you have working smoke alarms and know what to do in case of a fire. If you are unlucky enough to have a fire in the cupboard under your stairs, have you considered how you would get to safety?”

More advice and information can be found at

Please take a look at our Black Museum   where you can find out further information on these types of fire as well as many other potential causes of fire as well as helpful advice to consider to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Home Safety Visits

We are committed to helping people stay safe in their homes. One of the ways we do this is by carrying out Home Safety Visits.

These are offered to people who are most at risk from fires in their homes.

Our specially trained staff will visit your home and give you advice on how to reduce the risk of having a fire.

To see if you are eligible for a Home Safety visit please call us on 0800 177 7069 or complete and return the Home Safety Request form online at 

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