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Firefighters Warn Public Over Balcony BBQ Fires As Lockdown Continues

Sep 22, 2023Sep 22, 2023

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Firefighters are urging Londoners not to use barbecues on their balconies.

Firefighters are pleading with the public not to barbecue on their balcony as lockdown continues and the warm weather improves.

London Fire Brigade (LFB) has issued new advice as the concern over fires on balconies increases, and the Brigade's Deputy Commissioner has criticised the manufacturing of 'irresponsible' and 'careless' balcony barbecues that are easily available to purchase from retailers.

There have been more than 550 balcony fires across London in the last three years, and senior firefighters are once again warning of the devastating impacts, as these particular fires can easily spread to adjoining properties, potentially leaving many people homeless if the fire is serious enough.

Many balconies have combustible materials as part of their construction, and there are often combustible items stored in outside spaces, so if a fire starts, it can spread quickly. Wind can also fan or carry smouldering ignition sources such as cigarettes and embers from barbecues to lower or adjacent balconies.

There is huge concern that balcony fires will increase over the coming weeks.

LFB's Deputy Commissioner Richard Mills explains: 'We understand people want to enjoy their outside space if they have it, especially at the moment while we are all spending more time at home, but please don't think it won't happen to you, because it can.

'We are attending on average almost four fires on balconies every week, and that figure is likely to be much higher during warmer weather.'

Last week, a barbecue caused a large blaze at a block of flats in Deptford, South East London, after the barbecue was disposed of in a plastic bag and left on the balcony.

The fire started and damaged the fifth floor flat, as well as most of the roof of the building and part of the roof of the adjoining block. Residents of the affected flat escaped uninjured but around 100 people were evacuated due to the amount of smoke.

Now, around half of the residents are likely to be permanently displaced and are being rehoused by the local housing association.

But despite the warnings and obvious risks that balcony barbecues present, there remains one problem – barbecues which are being specifically marketed for use on balconies.

These are often marketed as space-saving barbecues for those without a garden, and can often be attached to a balcony railing, but can also be compact, portable designs.

The Deputy Commissioner is now writing to a number of manufacturers and retailers highlighting his concerns.

'These balcony barbecues are a staggeringly irresponsible idea and are being marketed carelessly, with hardly any thought as to how dangerous they are,' says Deputy Commissioner Mills. 'They are an accident waiting to happen and they are even being advertised with images of wooden balconies and with the suggestion customers have a fire extinguisher nearby.

'There are many hazards which can cause balcony fires and they have the potential to be devastating with highly damaging consequences – with a risk to life and the potential for not just you but your neighbours to lose their homes.'

Barbecues can be dangerous if not handled responsibly. LFB has issued the following guidance for barbecuing in the garden.

• Be careful where you position your BBQ: this should be on level ground, well away from anything flammable like sheds, fences, trees or tents.

• Don't use petrol, paraffin or any flammable liquids on your BBQ – firelighters are a much safer option.

• Carefully supervise children at all times.

• Be pet-aware – dogs (and some cats!) love to snaffle sausages and can cause accidents getting under your feet.

• BBQs can stay hot for hours, so be really careful moving them. They also give off carbon monoxide fumes for several hours after they go out, so do not bring them indoors with you.

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Neat, streamlined and incredibly chic, this bistro set was made for small spaces! As demonstrated here, the tables tuck in perfectly when not in use. It's also available in teal.

To create more privacy on your balcony, consider buying a privacy screen like this, which you can attach to the railings. It's easy to install and it comes with cable ties. It provides ideal protection against wind, rain and UV.

We love how compact this table and chairs bistro set is. Made from lightweight resin with perforated panels, it's the perfect blend of minimalist and industrial.

Invest in a compact bench for your balcony for ultimate style and comfort. Place against the wall, ensuring you'll have enough room to stretch your legs. Just layer with outdoor cushions and throws.

If you've got a lot of plants to showcase on your balcony, do it in style with this three-tier plant stand. The varying heights help to provide interest and the slatted design enables sunlight to seep through.

Who needs chairs when you can perch on stools? And stylish ones at that. These reactive glaze outdoor stools are compact enough for even the narrowest balconies. The reactive glaze means the colour and pattern of each stool will be unique.

Stay in the shade with this charming half parasol which can be fixed against your balcony wall.

Having a balcony instead of a garden doesn't mean you can't dine alfresco. This wall mountable bistro balcony table is perfect – fix to the wall or railings and enjoy breakfast, lunch and the sights from up high. The set comes with two chairs and, best of all, everything's foldable – including the table. The top storage compartment is ideal for displaying plants or storing condiments.

• You can also shop more colours on Made In Design.

Want to decorate your balcony with plants? To do that you'll need these cheap and cheerful colourful planters which hook onto your railings. It's also available in pink and yellow.

Get cosy with a bean bag. An alternative seating option, bean bags are great for relaxing while catching the sun rays from your balcony or sitting down to read a good book.

• SHOP MORE: The best outdoor bean bags

If you prefer a high table for your balcony, Suttons is selling this three-piece compact dining set made from FSC certified acacia wood. It'll make lunchtime dining all the more chic.

It couldn't be easier to pop this wall-hung table on your balcony, and it's foldable, too.

Need to store some garden tools and accessories? At just £20, this wood effect 90L capacity storage box is great for storing plant pots, cushion pads and tools. Please note, while it's water resistant, the box isn't waterproof.

Enjoy privacy while relaxing or sunbathing on your balcony with this waterproof balcony screen. Made from a special PU coated oxford fabric, the balcony shade also blocks the wind.

Sitting back, enjoying the sun and cooling down with a chilled drink is made all the more easier with this bar table and cooler bucket. There's also wine glass holders to the side of the table.

Side tables don't come much slimmer than this. The industrial concrete and metal finish makes it perfect for your balcony.

Create more space for planting flowers, herbs and vegetables with these hanging planter bags. Simply attach to your balcony railing.

Looking for a fuss-free flooring solution? The MÄLLSTEN floor decking from IKEA easily clicks together without tools.

Made of FSC-certified eucalyptus wood, this ladder-style shelving unit is a perfect display piece for all your potted plants or herbs. And it's pretty slimline too, so it should fit perfectly on a balcony.

There really is no excuse not to grow some plants on your balcony! Use the hooks and adjustable straps on these braces for hanging a plank of wood or a crate.

• You can also buy these balcony braces on Made In Design.

Olivia Heath is the Executive Digital Editor at House Beautiful UK, covering tomorrow's biggest interior design trends and revealing the best tips, tricks and hacks to help you decorate your home like a pro. Week by week Olivia shares the most stylish high street buys to help you get the look for less and showcases the best real homes, from House Beautiful's One Room Renovation video series, to the hottest and most unique properties on the market.

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Firefighters are pleading with the public not to barbecue on their balcony as lockdown continues and the warm weather improves. Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. • SHOP MORE: The best outdoor bean bags