A suspected fault in a gas cooker and its bottled propane gas supply
How this fire happened
A suspected fault in a gas cooker and its bottled propane gas supply caused an excess amount of gas to enter the already ignited oven.
This immediately caused a sheet of flame to spread up the wall behind the cooker and over the ceiling, igniting the contents of the kitchen before spreading throughout the property.
Open doors and windows to ventilate your house if you suspect there may be a gas leak.
Report the smell of escaping gas to National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.
If you suspect a significant loss of bottled gas and in the absence of any smell turn off at the bottle and arrange for a competent and qualified engineer to check the installation.
Make sure that any work on your gas appliances is carried out by an engineer that is Gas Safe registered.
Adjust gas or electricity installations unless you are qualified to do so.
Ignore any fluctuations in the supply of gas to your appliances or the sound and smell of escaping gas
Use any electrical equipment and avoid naked flames if you suspect a gas leak.
The householder had been having problems with the propane gas supply to the cooker for a number of days and had reported a large amount of gas being lost, but strangely did not report any smell of gas.
They thought nothing of it until flames engulfed the kitchen.
The gas was supplied from a number of external cylinders and it was identified during the fire investigation that the installation did not meet recognised standards. In particular, a flexible rubber hose had been used throughout and its entry into the house through the brickwork had not been protected by a ‘sleeve’.
In the days running up to the fire, there were a number of signs that all was not well with the gas cooker. The gas hob flame had been erratic, a propane gas cylinder that had been expected to last for two months had run out in just two days and the regulator fitted to the gas bottle outside the property had ‘iced up’ on the afternoon of the fire and had to be changed.
The damage to the house was significant and it was considered that the escaping gas played a significant role in this. On the evening of the incident, the householder had cooked dinner and was baking when she heard the sound of a sudden gas escape from the oven.
The fire developed immediately and a sheet of flame flashed up the wall behind the cooker, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall. This left the householder and a friend, who was in the kitchen at the time, a limited opportunity to escape as the fire quickly spread causing significant damage to the ground and first floor.
Unfortunately, the occupier, who was a tenant at the property, had no contents insurance and lost everything. East Sussex Fire and Rescue regularly often sees the aftermath of fires involving people without sufficient insurance cover or no cover at all. In difficult economic times people may consider they can save money for other priorities. Clearly this is a very big gamble which has cost a great deal in this case.
The effect it had
"You can’t possibly imagine the effect that something like this could have before it happens. It’s devastating.
I've lost everything I own, including sentimental things that I kept after my mother passed away.
I still go to the cupboard to find photos and things to show people and completely forget that I know longer have them.
"My children worry about me more and want me to move nearer to them.
Even my poor dog is suffering. He escaped with me from the fire and now has fits. You wouldn't think it would affect a poor animal.
My advice is simple – make sure you have household insurance. It can’t replace the sentimental things but it can help you put your life back together.
I'm still taking each day as it comes at the moment."