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Why Poverty puts People at Risk of House Fires

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house firePoorer people are more likely to be harmed in fire. Sadly, issues such as overcrowding and poor housing conditions make a fire more likely to start and then spread. In fact, poorer children are 15 times more likely to die in a house fire than those who are better off.

Poorer people more likely to smoke

Statistically speaking, poorer people to smoke than richer people are. The same number of smokers emerges from both classes, but poorer people find it difficult to kick the habit, due to life stresses. Ignoring all other implications of this fact, it does explain why poorer people are involved in house fires. After all, it’s widely known that cigarettes and smoking materials are one of the leading causes of house fires in the UK.

Poorer housing conditions

Poorer people are more likely to live in:
  • Areas with vacant and abandoned buildings
  • Homes in need of repair
  • Older buildings with less passive fire protection
  • Homes with poor wiring and electrical systems
  • Rented accommodation
  • Smaller homes
The sheer size of a home can even be a risk. Smaller homes become more cluttered, which provides fuel for fires to ignite and helps fires to spread quickly. The fact that poorer people are more likely to live in long-term rented accommodation is also problematic. While it is the landlords’ duty to maintain homes and ensure that the property is in order, tenants may not know this. Likewise, a landlord may not know that a building is in need of repair, especially if the resident has lived there for a long period of time. On top of this, people living in poverty might not be able to maintain safe heating and wring systems. The inability to replace or repair faults will also lead people to depend on electronic heaters, which are another leading cause of fires. Cornwall Council states that you are seven times more likely to have a house fire if you live in rented accommodation.

Absent or faulty smoke alarms

People living in poverty are more likely to have a faulty or absent smoke alarm. From 2011 to 2012 in Great Britain statistics showed that:
  • In 34% of fires attended, no smoke alarm was present
  • In 18% of fires attended, the smoke alarm did not operate
The presence of a smoke alarm means that a fire can be detected sooner, before it becomes out of control. It also reduces the number of fire fatalities.

Overcrowding

Overcrowding in homes, which is linked to low-income and poverty, is also a factor. People with lower incomes are more likely to live in HMOs (houses in multiple occupation). This includes flats, hostels and sheltered accommodation. The more people occupying a building, the greater the risk of fire is, simply because there are more sources of ignition and electrical appliances. Also, types of buildings that house large numbers of people are more likely to be poorly constructed and be occupied by vulnerable people. According to Bedfordshire council, you are six times as likely to die in a fire if you live in a HMO as you are if you live in a single occupancy home. You are also more likely to sustain a burn or scald. The risks are even higher if tenants don’t know each other. photo credit: jc-pics via photopin cc
  2 COMMENTS
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  • Written by: Paulita Rodgers

    I agree. Poorer communities have lesser resources to protect them from fires. They are even engaging in wrong practices that may put them at a higher risk for fire incidents.

    • Written by: Admin - Island Fire Protection

      Definitely. Smoking is a classic example. Thanks for your comment.

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