Fire caused by a heat gun while decorating
How this fire happened
During the course of making some home improvements, the occupier was making use of a hot air gun on the staircase to strip back the paintwork on the banister and skirting.
The work had been going well until, unknown to the occupier, the hot air gun had ignited something on the unseen, internal cavity behind the skirting board within a wood, lathe and plaster wall.
Whatever was ignited, then made its way down through the cavity in the wall resting at the bottom of the stairs.
In modern construction, consideration is given to keeping these areas as sterile as possible for just this very reason but historically, in some constructions, many combustible materials are known to be left in voids and cavities of this type.
Indeed, upon investigation, a newspaper of 120 years old was found in the cavity!
The fire then proceeded to spread unseen under the floorboards of the flat and was only noticed when the fire broke through the wall and set off the fire alarm at which point the occupier called 999.
When the floorboards were removed during the investigation the extent of damage could be seen.
The fire had obviously had some time to develop and was it not for good early intervention from the fire service, could have resulted in a far more serious fire.
The Effect it had
When I saw the damage caused by the fire, and the water used to put the fire out, and not just to my flat, but those of others, fears over insurance and the likely huge cost of repairs to a listed building kicked in.
This was not helped by someone telling me that it was illegal to use a hot-air gun on a listed building. Thankfully that was not the case.
Now, some nine months after the fire, none of the three badly damaged flats are habitable and one of my fellow owners has been living in a rented place for that period, as have I.
He and everyone else in the building have been more understanding than one could expect and that has helped.
I still wonder if I was just very unlucky or somehow stupid and should have been able to anticipate the risk.
Whichever, I had two months of purgatory as we waited for the insurer to honour the claim delayed by factors nothing to do with me at all.
Do not use to strip lead paints as this could release toxic fumes.
Do not insert anything into the gun when working.
Do not touch the end of the gun where hot air comes out.
Do not use the heat gun near anything that is flammable.
Uncoil any extension leads.
Ensure rooms in which they are being used are as clear as possible.
As in this case, give consideration to what may be on the opposite side to the side you are heating.
Keep the gun moving so you don’t overheat any area.
Wear a pair of heat-protective gloves.
Turn off the Heat Gun before putting it down.
Allow the gun to cool before storing.