Fire Safety High Rise GMFRS

Fire service issues urgent warning about balcony safety after cigarettes cause two fires in 24 hours

GREATER Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) is urging residents in flats to take extra care when enjoying the hot weather on balconies, after tackling two fires in 24 hours – including one at a building with flammable cladding.

On Friday evening (9 June), GMFRS crews attended a fire at a residential apartment block on Blackfriars Road, Salford, where a fire on a wooden balcony on the 13th floor ignited after a cigarette was left in a dry plant pot. 

The fire caused the safety glass on the balcony to shatter and fall onto balconies below, while burning debris fell onto a balcony further down causing a second fire. Thankfully firefighters were able to prevent the fires spreading further and there were no injuries, but there was considerable damage to balconies.  

Then on Saturday morning, just before 11am, firefighters responded to a call about a fire at three-storey townhouse on River Street, Manchester, caused by the unsafe disposal of a cigarette on a balcony. The fire was out before crews arrived, and they removed a damaged section of decking to ensure the area was safe before providing safety advice to the occupant. 

These incidents also come shortly after one at an apartment in Wythenshawe on 1 June, which saw a fire started by a tealight on a balcony spread into the property, causing significant damage. 

With the hot weather set to continue, GMFRS is urging residents in high-rise buildings to take fire safety seriously and to never have a barbecue on a balcony and be more cautious when smoking. 

GMFRS’ Head of Protection, Jenni Seex, said:

“The warm weather is welcome, but what we have seen in recent years is this often leads to residents deciding to barbecue on balconies. We want residents to be able to enjoy their balconies but to also ensure they don’t put themselves or anyone else in danger. 

“Barbecues and discarded cigarettes are the most common causes of fires on balconies, which is why GMFRS will be taking a tougher approach to residents who put their property and neighbours at risk by having barbeques on their balconies this summer. 

“Never barbecue on your balcony as this poses a real risk of fire, due to the close proximity of the buildings. Anyone who does so is endangering themselves and their neighbours. 

“If you smoke make sure that cigarettes are properly stubbed out in an ashtray – don’t drop them into plant pots or drop them off balconies as this can cause a fire.” 

Residents are reminded to follow GMFRS’s balcony fire safety advice: 

  • Do not use barbecues under any circumstances 
  • Do not use chimineas, fire pits or any other equipment which involves the use of open fire  
  • Never store flammable materials like gas on your balcony 
  • Reduce clutter and try and keep items on the balcony to a minimum 
  • If you smoke, make sure you stub cigarettes out properly in an ashtray and never flick them off your balcony 

To help prevent flat fires occurring this summer, GMFRS will also be working with housing providers and landlords to ensure residents are aware of fire safety advice and, where necessary, supporting action being taken against residents who put others at risk.  

The Manchester Cladiators, a housing action group of concerned high rise residents, added:

“It’s frightening how people can think having a barbecue on a balcony is a good idea. Of course, people can and will smoke on their balcony but flicking cigarettes from balconies is antisocial, stupid and dangerous.  

“Every year, we see fire incidents soar as soon as the sun comes out. For those of us who live in flats it is vital that we are considerate to our neighbours and follow simple safety measures. Many residents across Greater Manchester are still waiting for major works to be done to their buildings to make them safe.  

“This is a worrying time for those residents and the increased anxiety about other people causing fires only adds another layer of distress.” 

GMFRS promotes a zero-tolerance approach to barbeques on balconies as they cannot be used safely, and many leases and tenancy agreements contain clauses which prevent people causing a nuisance or antisocial behaviour. 

People putting their building and neighbours at risk could be in breach of their lease or tenancy agreements, and GMFRS will support housing providers and managing agents to take action. In extreme cases, if residents don’t heed warnings, GMFRS will look at whether legal powers allow the Service to take action directly against residents which would place legal restrictions on how they use their balcony. 

Article Published: 13/06/2023 14:34 PM