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Data shows a 40% increase in fire claims since the UK lockdown began

An analysis of fire claim submissions during the UK lockdown across domestic and commercial properties, including outbuildings and outdoor areas by the claims data specialist Crawford has shown:

  • 40% increase in fire claims
  • 36.1% of outbuilding fires are arson
  • 60.1% of fires occur in outbuildings or outside

On 23 March, the UK Government placed the country into lockdown in response to the ongoing spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Since the commencement of the new regime, Crawford has been monitoring its impact on claims activity. During this period, loss data across virtually every line of business has shown a marked decline in all areas, except one – fire claim submissions.

Fire is one of the most expensive property insurance claims, with £1.3 billion being paid out to customers during 2018, according to the Association of British Insurers.

Comparing the post-lockdown incident figures to pre-lockdown (see below) shows a significant shift in the primary locations for the reported fires, with the outdoor area including outbuildings seeing an increase of over 187% in the number of events recorded following the transition.

fires pre and post lockdown

Fire Sources

Further analysis by Crawford of the fire-incident data has revealed how the UK lockdown is impacting the primary ignition sources of these events.

Crawford’s analysis of data, compiled by the UK Home Office over the last 9 years, summaries the causes of fire within both domestic and commercial properties, as well as outdoors. The figures reveal that during this period, cooking appliances accounted for 50% of domestic fires while for commercial properties cooking appliances and electricity supply account for almost 36% of all fire incidents.

causes of fire graph

The tables below provide a breakdown of the sources of fire-related submissions received by Crawford since lockdown began inside the main property, in outbuildings and in outside areas.

inside fire claims table

outbuilding fire claims table

outside fire claims table

Crawford’s analysis of the claims data received during lockdown has revealed a number of key findings:

  • Only one in 20 property claims was caused by cooking equipment
  • There was an even split of property, outbuilding and outside fire claims. Typically, the bulk of incidents occur inside the main property
  • One in three outbuilding fires and one in five outside fire claims are suspected cases of arson
  • Electrical equipment is the main cause of property and outbuilding fires, which may be as a result of increased electricity usage during lockdown. The main attributable cause of suspected arson accounts for 31.6% of outbuilding fires
  • Open fires accounted for almost 64% of outside incidents, while BBQs and smoking-related fires only accounted for 4% each


Contributing Factors

There are four factors that are potentially combining to cause the surge in fire-related claims activity witnessed during lockdown:

Unusual seasonal weather

May 2020 was the driest May on record for England and the second driest for Wales, while the spring period from March until May also recorded the largest number of hours of sunshine on record. The last recorded peak in fire incidents occurred during the June 2018 heatwave. Warm weather coupled with children being off school during lockdown leads to an increase in outdoor fires.

Home activity

The increase in activity in domestic properties as a result of the lockdown, while contributing to a decline in escape of water incidents, is also resulting in an increase in accidental electrical fires as there is an increase in device usage and a commensurate surge in overall electricity usage.


Tips on fire safety for buildings/outbuildings

  1. Make sure buildings have the right fire safety equipment
  2. Carry out thorough Risk Assessments
  3. Ensure electrical safety
  4. Try not to overload sockets
  5. Check plug/wire for damage


Tips for managing fire risks:

  • Fire risk assessments are essential to help landlords and property agents identify what they need to do to prevent fires and keep people safe.
  • A thorough assessment should: identify fire hazards and people at risk; evaluate, remove or reduce these risks; and record the findings, prepare an emergency plan and provide training. The fire risk assessment, which must be carried out by a competent person, should be reviewed and updated regularly.
  • Fire separation and internal fire compartmentation are key to limiting fire spread and maintaining a fire-safe environment. Similarly, fire doors within communal areas are considered a critical element within multi-storey and high-rise blocks for limiting fire spread throughout a building. Negligent landlords can receive large fines or even prison sentences if there is a fire door failure or breach of fire compartmentation.
  • When it comes to prevention, it is essential that all building services, including both electrical and gas installations, are correctly installed and maintained. Similarly, all gas and electrical appliances and equipment must be properly installed, maintained and inspected, if the dangers of fire are to be avoided or minimised.
  • In order to ensure a fire-safe environment when maintenance works are taking place, robust policies and procedures are essential in relation to managing contractors and hot works. Additionally, the threat of arson should be considered, particularly in areas of high anti-social behaviour.
  • More general precautions – such as the inclusion and regular maintenance of fire extinguishers, fire alarms and sprinkler systems, and safe storage of flammable liquids and waste control – should also be adhered to.


Through working closely with you or your business, BHIB Insurance Brokers can provide you with risk assessment templates, full insurance review and quality independent advice.