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New trends, new sources of fire

Experts on fires at home, new hazards and how to prevent them

Fires at home or at work always take us by surprise, and put our lives and property at risk. Although quite a few fires start in the kitchen, there can be many other reasons why a fire takes hold: electrical wiring, heating and other appliances, candles, lights – the list goes on. Electric scooters and bikes, which are often charged in enclosed spaces, present an ever-increasing fire hazard. This was one of the warnings issued by experts at today’s event at Triglav Lab, which took place during this year’s Fire Safety Month. They called for greater care to be taken, and gave advice on how to ensure greater safety and take out appropriate insurance against these risks. It is important for people, when they take out insurance, to think carefully about the main hazards that their homes face and the dimensions of those hazards.

Guests at the Prepared for the (Un)Predictable: When Houses Catch Fire event, along with other experts present, presented information on the potential causes of indoor fires and the damage they bring. They highlighted the range of preventive measures available, which was particularly welcome at the start of the heating season, and showed what to do in the event of a house fire.

Don’t leave the kitchen when cooking
Well-known chef Luka Jezeršek stressed the importance of fire safety and of remaining in the kitchen throughout the cooking process. According to him, most kitchen fires are the result of carelessness when heating oil and fats. Covering the pot during cooking can prevent a fire from starting. Jezeršek recommends that kitchen devices be regularly cleaned and work surfaces kept free of clutter, electrical devices used correctly, and combustible objects, such as kitchen cloths, be kept away from sources of heat. “Accidents never sleep, which means that it is always sensible to have a fire extinguisher or fire blanket handy if a fire does break out,” he advises.

Batteries can also catch fire
Firefighting instructor and emergency worker Boštjan Triler recommends that “lit stoves, ovens, water heating devices, fondues, toasters and other appliances [should] never be left unattended.” As we enter the heating season, he urges that heating systems for living areas be properly maintained, pointing out that the fact that breathing in carbon monoxide fumes is the most common cause of death from poisoning. Triler shared some of his experiences from the field, and issued a special warning about the danger of fire caused by devices that contain lithium-ion batteries: “Only charge them when you yourself are present in the room, and check on the charging process at regular intervals. Stop charging as soon as you smell burning or fire, notice smoke, or think that the device is overheating.

Only try and put out the fire if it is at an early stage and you do not put yourself in danger by trying to extinguish it. Use a fire extinguisher or any firefighting medium to hand, such as water or a fire blanket, or cover the pot. If you cannot limit or extinguish the fire yourself, withdraw from the area immediately and call 112.

Why can electric scooters catch fire?

Andrej Pečjak, pioneer of e-mobility in Slovenia and director of the Metron Institute, highlights the fire danger posed by electrical devices that we use or charge at home. “Many of these devices have built-in lithium batteries and all of them have chargers, which can be dangerous. Chargers can overheat, melt the plastic and, in the worst case, catch fire,” he explains. Electric scooter charging and e-bike batteries, particularly cheap, low-quality examples, present a particular danger. He also mentions the possibility of electric cars catching fire: “Poor installations that are used to connect e-vehicles to charging stations present a much greater fire risk than battery-powered vehicles.

According to experts, the number of fires caused by e-mobility devices charged with lithium-ion batteries has risen by between 20 and 30% since 2020. Questions have also recently been asked about fires caused by solar energy units that are installed on the roofs of an increasing number of buildings.

The risk of fire on solar unit components comes from damaged modules, oxidised joints on electrical installations, cable connections, the overheating of inverters and battery-powered electricity storage units. Problems arise when there are combustible materials next to these components, such as roof structures, roof coverings, etc. These can catch fire, as Aleš Jug from the Slovenian Fire Safety Association points out in a study of the fire safety of solar power units. Some recent studies have shown that the installation of photovoltaic panels on roofs can cause a fire to spread rapidly.

Fewer but higher damage claims
The number of instances and the amount of damage caused by fire in residential and commercial buildings fluctuate from year to year. “Although there has been a noticeable recent downward trend, in terms of the number of insurance policies taken out, in the number of claims resulting from fire, the amount of those claims from fires in residential and commercial buildings has been on the rise since 2020,” explains Andrej Šircelj from Zavarovalnica Triglav’s quality assurance and customer relations department. “We can reduce the risk of fire if we behave carefully and sensibly. As accidents never rest and fire is a hazard that can destroy everything we have, it is important to have adequate insurance,” recommends Šircelj.

In 2022 Zavarovalnica Triglav paid out around EUR 10 million in claims resulting from fires in buildings. This was just over 12% of all property-related claims. Statistically the highest number of claims resulting from fires in buildings are filed in December – that is, during the heating and holiday season, when advent wreaths, lights and candles present a particular fire hazard. If you would like more information on fire hazards and how to deal with fire, click here.

Natural and other disasters can leave us homeless, which is why the insurer stresses the importance of property insurance. There is still too little awareness of this, as shown by the fact that a third of properties owned by private individuals are uninsured against any risk at all.

It is vital for people, when they take out insurance, to take time to think carefully about the main hazards that their homes face and the dimensions of those hazards. This should form the basis for selecting the right insurance. They should pay attention to whether insurance coverage for hazards is included and the amount of that coverage. They should also check whether they are able to increase the sum insured for specific hazards if they believe it necessary. Not least, it is important to consult an insurance agent or representative, who will be able to explain any potential pitfalls and provide comprehensive information that enables them to select the insurance that gives them the highest amount of financial security in the event of damage.

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