General Insurance Article - Aviva urges fire safety as lockdown leads to home incidents

Aviva is urging residents to take extra care as a growing number of people report fire incidents at their homes. The insurer has seen an increase in certain types of fire claims during lockdown, with barbecues and bonfires being the main reason for this surge.

 Barbecues have proved popular as households have entertained themselves during fine weather conditions. But Aviva has seen an influx of seasonal claims. Scenarios include hot cinders setting fire to bins, explosions from gas canisters and even the heat from barbecues melting conservatories.

 There’s also evidence of people burning household rubbish and garden waste on bonfires or in incinerators, while local refuse sites have been closed. In some cases, fires have got out of hand or embers have blown away, causing damage to sheds, fences and garages.

 Andrew Morrish, UK Claims Director says: “Thankfully fires are relatively rare and one of the least common causes of household claims. But their impact can be catastrophic, so any increase in fire claims is a cause for concern.

 “We’ve seen numerous examples where people think they’ve put fires out, only to find that stray embers have led to chaos. And in a number of cases, fires have started in neighbour’s gardens and spread to our customers’ properties.

 “Whether people are enjoying a barbecue with their families or tempted to get rid of their garden waste with a home bonfire, we’d urge caution, particularly during fine, dry weather. An unattended flame or a stray spark can quickly lead to a dramatic blaze, so it pays to take all possible precautions.”

 Aviva offers the following guidance in relation to fire safety:
 Don’t leave fires unattended: It only takes a few seconds for a fire to get out of control, so the rule is simple – always have someone to keep watch over any barbecue or fire.

 Be cautious with accelerants: If a fire is slow to start, it can be tempting to use an accelerant to give flames a boost. But a little can go a long way and a small spark can quickly become a huge inferno – so exercise caution if you need to use them at all.

 Be mindful of weather conditions: If rainfall has been scarce, grass and plants are likely to catch fire much more easily. Windy conditions are also a hazard as they can quickly spread flames over a large area in a small space of time, so be sure to pick the right conditions for your blaze.

 Take it to the tip: Garden waste and bags of rubbish can be an unsightly source of clutter. But it’s much safer to wait until you have access to a refuse site, than risk a fire.

 Know the rules: There are no laws against having a bonfire, but there are restrictions regarding the nuisance they can cause – for example in relation to pollution or health hazards to others. And it’s worth knowing that neighbours can report you if they feel your bonfire is causing a nuisance – which could lead to a fine of up to £5,000.

 Give a thought to wildlife: If you’ve built up garden waste to make a bonfire, this can provide an attractive home for garden wildlife, such as hedgehogs and nesting birds. If you are going to set light to your bonfire, take a few minutes to make sure no-one is living in it.

 Dispose of barbecues, cinders and matches responsibly: If your barbecue has gone without a hitch, it’s still vital to pay attention at the end of the proceedings. Make sure any coals are not still glowing before you dispose of them and be careful where you discard matches or cigarettes. Bins can quickly catch fire from a stray spark.

 Keep a bucket of water or sand on stand-by: Hopefully a precaution that you won’t need to use, but it’s much better to be prepared so you can respond quickly if a fire does get out of hand. 

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