Smoking linked to almost half of fire deaths

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Smoking has been linked to almost half the fatal fires in Northern Ireland over the past five years.

The Fire and Rescue Service said this applied to 22 of the 53 accidental fire deaths since 2010.

Alan Walmsley, assistant chief fire officer, said: “Smoking materials remain the biggest cause of accidental house fires in Northern Ireland and it is a key area of safety that we need to address.”

Last year crews attended 72 house fires caused by smoking-related materials – including four fatal incidents.

It was a marked increase on the previous year when two people lost their lives and firefighters were called to tackle blazes at 58 residential properties.

Mr Walmsley added: “Fires caused by smoking materials can spread very rapidly within moments through a house.

“Unfortunately our firefighters experience first-hand the destruction and devastation caused by fires in the home started by smoking materials and we would appeal to the public to be extra vigilant as it only takes a few moments for a serious fire to develop.”

Householders have been warned against smoking in bed; to make sure cigarettes, cigars and pipes are properly extinguished and to keep matches or lighters away from children.

A new advertising campaign has been launched to highlight the dangers and to mark Fire Safety Week.