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Electrical devices or installations cause 2,260 fires last year – careless stove use the most common cause

Publication date 29.2.2024 8.09 | Published in English on 29.2.2024 at 10.15
Press release

2,260 fires that started from an electrical device or installation were recorded in the Rescue Services’ PRONTO database in 2023. There were fewer fires than in the previous year, in which there were 2,400 fires. Electrical stoves or ovens were the cause of 860 fires, compared to over 900 in the previous year. Stove fires are rarely caused by a fault in the stove itself. Instead, they are caused by carelessness. A total of 13 people lost their lives in eight separate electrical fires.

An electrical fire refers to a fire that is ignited directly by electrical energy from a cooking stone, sauna stove, refrigerator, light or electrical installation, for example. The Rescue Services record electrical fires in the PRONTO database, and the records also include the source of ignition if it is known. Last year, the largest source of electrical fires were electrical stoves or ovens. Other sources of ignition were lights with 189 fires, electrical wires and cabling with 112 fires, electric sauna stoves with 98 fires, microwave ovens with 81 fires, washing machines with 61 fires and refrigerators with 48 fires. Batteries and chargers for electronics were marked as the source of ignition in 65 cases. 

The cause of electrical fires is most often human action: carelessness, not following the usage or installation instructions, or neglect of maintenance. Functional human capability also has an effect on fire safety. Proper usage, understanding of the usage and safety instructions, changing the battery on the fire alarm, calling for help or leaving the apartment in an emergency are all factors. 

Avoid electrical fires through appropriate action

“You can prevent electrical fires by using electrical devices correctly and under supervision if necessary. For example, when you’re cooking, you need to keep your attention on the stove, and when the sauna or washing machine is on, you should stay home. Other practical tips for avoiding electrical fires include not storing things on the stove, focusing on cooking, not using your sauna as a storeroom or drying your laundry on top of the sauna stove,” says Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) Senior Officer Jukka Lepistö.  

Stove fires still most common 

Stoves remain the most consistent source of ignition. Stove fires are not usually caused by a fault with the stove itself. Instead, they are due to human carelessness or sloppiness. The most common cause is forgetting to turn off the stove or turning it on by accident, causing materials on top of or close to the stove to ignite, and the fire spreading quickly to nearby structures.

Hazardous situations include: 

  • Leaving cooking on the stove and falling asleep or a person forgetting that they were cooking and, in the worst case, leaving the apartment. 
  • Pets – dogs or cats – try to see what’s been left on top of the stove. Climbing onto the stove, they manage to turn on one or more of the stovetops.
  • Children can also reach for the stovetop and turn the plates on.
  • Modern stovetops are fairly easy to turn on. It’s easy to pass by a stove and move so that you, or what you’re carrying, brush against the switches and turn them on. One example of this could be the handle of a rollator.
  • There are also stoves on the market with better safety features, such as ones that you need both hands to turn on. These cannot be turned on accidentally. 

Avoid stove fires through appropriate action 

  • Pay attention when cooking – don’t do many things at once.
  • Keep the stove environment clear of unnecessary things.
  • Do not leave scraps in pots or pans on the stove that could attract your pets.
  • Pay attention to what your children do in the kitchen.

“There are also technical solutions that can prevent stove fires, such as safety devices that automatically turn off the stove’s power. Only qualified professionals are allowed to install and repair fixed electrical devices,” Lepistö reminds us. 

Sauna fires often caused by objects or laundry on the stove

Last year, 98 fires that started in a sauna were recorded in the PRONTO database; in the previous year, there were 107, and in the year before that, 92. The most common causes of sauna fires are drying your laundry in the sauna and leaving objects on the stove. There is a risk here that the stove is accidentally turned on, and the objects around or on top of the stove catch fire. Other sources or ignition were the heating elements or a faulty thermostat or timer.  

Sauna checklist:

  • The sauna is made for bathing, not for use as a storeroom or laundry drying room.  
  • Check that there is nothing on or close to the electric stove when you turn on the sauna.
  • Use and maintain the stove in accordance with the instructions. The stove’s instructions will tell you how much you can heat up the stove every day and week. If they don’t, ask the seller or manufacturer. 
  • A stove doesn’t last for ever, but following the usage and maintenance instructions will extend its life by years. 
  • Remote activation is always a risk. You should always be at home when you turn on the stove.
  • Make sure the thermostat and timer work. If the device malfunctions, call an electrician. 
  • Do not use the stove to heat your apartment. Turning the stove on for several hours contrary to the instructions creates a significant fire risk. 
  • The stones do not last for ever either; replace them according to the instructions. 
  • If you’ve been cleaning the sauna, it’s been under maintenance, or your children have been playing in the sauna, make sure that the stove hasn’t been accidentally turned on.

A functioning fire alarm saves lives

A functioning fire alarm will help you detect fires early. In the event of a fire, you only have a few minutes to evacuate. Regularly check that the fire alarm is working by pressing on the test button, and replace the battery regularly on 112 Day (11 February), for example.

More information:
Jukka Lepistö, Senior Officer
tel. +358 29 5052 460
[email protected]   

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