Four homes were recently evacuated when a fire broke out in a garden shed in Wrexham. This situation is more common than people might expect with sheds posing a number of fire safety risks, often containing highly flammable items such as gas cylinders, chemicals, oily rags and electrical items that, if not stored correctly, could cause a fire with devastating consequences.
What are the risks?
There are not currently any rules or regulations with regards to protecting a shed or garage, however they all pose a potential fire risk. Almost every shed, garage or outbuilding you come across will contain household furniture, cars, workshops, chemicals, gas cylinders, fuels, oils, garden equipment, electrical machinery…the list goes on. All of these items are highly flammable and difficult to extinguish making it imperative that they are all stored correctly to minimise the risk of fire.
Fires in sheds are increasingly common, just recently four homes in Wrexham were evacuated when a fire broke out in a garden shed leaving two people in need of treatment after suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation and shock. Homeowners are generally aware of the importance of employing safety precautions such as smoke detectors, circuit breakers, and fire extinguishers within their homes but rarely consider their sheds and garages. It is difficult to employ some of the same safety methods that you would in your home as smoke detectors are impractical and are unlikely to be heard in the event of a fire unless you have a fully fitted fire alarm that allows for wireless device connectivity. There are, however, measures that can be put into place to ensure that your sheds and garages present minimal risk of fire.
What can we do to reduce the risk of fire?
These are just a few guidelines that can be followed to make your sheds, garages and outhouses safe from the risks of fire:
- Always ensure hazardous substances are stored securely in approved containers.
- Only keep what you need to use. If you have any leftover chemicals or gases that you are unlikely to use before they expire then dispose of them correctly and return any empty cylinders to their manufacturers.
- Reduce the risk of deliberate fire and theft by keeping your shed outbuildings secure. Consider using a good security light or burglar alarm to deter any potential thieves or vandals.
- Take care with electrical items such as TVs and radios, make regular checks to ensure they are operating correctly and that there is no damage to cables. Ensure that you do not overload power sockets and that the main source of power is protected by a circuit breaker.
- Make sure your barbecue or any other fire containers have fully cooled before putting them into your shed. The heat from a still cooling barbecue could easily ignite those flammable substances or materials kept within your shed. Make sure that any bonfires, barbecues or fire pits are located at a suitable distance from your shed. The combination of dry timber walls and floors made more combustible from oil , thinners or fuel that has been spilled on them is easily ignitable.
- When installing a shed make sure that if it were to catch fire that it is a suitable distance from other buildings to avoid spreading fire.
These are just some of the precautions that can be taken to ensure that your shed, garage or outhouse remains safe from fire. If you are unsure about the safety of your home a free home fire safety check can be arranged with your local fire service where they will visit your home and carry out a risk assessment.