With calls on average to one fridge fire a week in London, the LFB claims that it has been lobbying the industry to make their fridges and freezers more fire resistant for the last three and a half years.
In a statement, the LFB says: “We are calling for fridge freezer manufacturers to act now to make their products safer. Despite seven deaths and 71 serious injuries in London since 2010, we believe most manufacturers are still dragging their heels on making fire safety improvements.”
A London Fire Brigade report in 2013 described domestic fridge freezers as the ‘most dangerous household appliance when involved in a fire’.
In that report, the LFB quoted government figures that there is an average of 336 fires involving fridges or freezers in the UK each year, injuring 69 people or one person in every five fires. The report maintains that the way fridges and freezers are built and the materials used to make them have changed over recent years to include more plastic. These changes have increased the risk to people if a fire starts because the highly flammable insulation is not separated from parts of the fridge or freezer where a fire can start. If this insulation catches light a fire can develop quickly.
Also, most refrigeration appliances are foamed using highly flammable hydrocarbon propellants, usually cyclopentane or, sometimes, pentane.
“Fridges and freezers are of particular concern to us because they contain large amounts of plastic and highly flammable insulation, which, if ignited, can cause large, rapidly developing fires that spread quickly, giving off highly toxic gases,” says the LFB. “The doors and side panels of most fridges and freezers are usually covered in metal but we are concerned that many still use a flammable plastic backing which offers very little protection against the highly flammable insulation catching alight if a fire starts.”
The LFB is calling on the industry to ensure the backs of fridge freezers are made of non combustible or fire retardant materials as standard.
“Every home has a fridge or freezer and the chances are it will be plugged in and working safely for years but it is no exaggeration to say that they are potentially the most dangerous household appliances if they are involved in a fire,” claims London Fire Brigade deputy commissioner Rita Dexter.
“Putting a simple non-combustible or fire retardant covering at the back of appliances is a relatively simple change that manufacturers can make and one that we believe would reduce the number of injuries, and potentially deaths, caused by fires involving fridges and freezers,” she added.