We all love the warm glow of embers and the scent of woodsmoke, but experts at Admiral, a home insurance company, are warning that the number of accidental garden fires in the first five months of 2022 is already higher than in the previous three years.
They are urging homeowners to exercise caution, especially if they're recently purchased one of the best fire pits and are now planning lots of evenings alfresco around the flames.
April and June represent the worst months for garden-related fires, Admiral says, as we all venture outdoors to tidy up our gardens in spring and then enjoy spending time entertaining alfresco with family and friends in summer.
Accidental garden fires warning
Annual incidents have spiralled in the last two years, with Newcastle topping the list of postcode areas in the UK experiencing the highest number of claims, and the wider north-east of England reporting more than any other region.
'Over the last two years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of fire claims caused by fire pits, barbecues, bonfires and the burning of garden waste,' says Noel Summerfield, head of household at Admiral.
'In 2020, as the UK spent a lot of time in lockdown, the number of incidents jumped by 26 per cent, and last year the number went up again slightly and was 28 per cent higher than 2019.'
Fire pit threat
Indulging in the latest fire pit ideas is one of the most popular ways to extend warm summer evenings, but they require caution.
'We’ve particularly seen an increase in claims related to fire pits as they grow in popularity,' says Noel. 'We’re especially urging people to take extreme care if they are topping up the fuel of a bio-ethanol fire pit which is lit or switched on because they are extremely flammable.'
Sally Coulthard, author of The Little Book of Building Fires: How to Chop, Scrunch, Stack and Light a Fire (available at Amazon), says you should always take care with what you burn on a conventional fire pit, avoiding sheet materials such as MDF, chipboard, melamine, veneers, hardboard, plywood, laminate and engineered flooring, painted or varnished wood, outdoor timber such as decking, cladding.
Also, avoid gates, fences and posts, salvaged sleepers, telegraph poles, old and unwanted sheds and summerhouses, because they will have been treated with preservative.
Sally's top tip for how to light a fire pit safely? 'I would say the best tip of all is, before you light anything in a garden, have a plan for how you’d put it out,' she says. 'Always keep a bucket of water, sand or a garden hose nearby for emergencies.'
Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.
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