Dramatic pictures prompt firefighters six-point warning to South Tynesiders heating homes safely as cold weather continues

A senior firefighter has urged South Tyneside residents not to take risks with their homes and lives by cutting corners in the cold weather.

With snow and icy cold weather set to hit the North East this weekend and households facing increased energy costs, people will be looking at alternative ways to stay warm, from fire places and wood burners to hot water bottles and electric heaters and blankets.

Now, as dramatic pictures show the damage that can be caused, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has issued six tips to help people stay safe:

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• Make sure there is one metre between electric heaters and clothing, furniture or other flammable materials;

• Do not use electric blankets that are damaged, or have been rolled up in a cupboard for a number of years;

• Never use hot water bottles with electric blankets;

• Make sure electric blankets and heaters are switched off overnight and sockets are not overloaded;

• Sweep chimneys before they are used for the first time over winter;

Ensure plug sockets are not overloaded

• Make sure smoke alarms are fitted, regularly tested and working.

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Group Manager Steve Thomas, Head of TWFRS’s Prevention and Education Department, urged people to take care and look out for those who might need help.

“This is a difficult time of year for many, even without the added pressures of rising energy prices,” he said.

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“We have already seen examples of people trying to heat their homes in alternative ways but thankfully there have not been any serious incidents in our region.

“Elsewhere in the country people have had their homes destroyed as a result of fires caused by electric heaters, blankets or a blocked chimney.

“We want people to follow our simple fire safety tips and, if you have any concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need additional advice.

“We would also ask you to look out for vulnerable friends, families and neighbours and, if appropriate, we will be able to organise a free home visit.”

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Make sure electric heaters and blankets are switched off overnight

If you know someone who is vulnerable, and more at risk of suffering an injury in a fire, then call TWFRS on 0800 0327777 or fill in the enquiry form on the brigade website by visiting www.twfire.gov.uk/safety-advice/

You can use the same contact methods to get fire safety advice for yourself and your own property.

Ensure chimneys are swept before their first use of the year