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Neasden fire report rules fridge freezers are the most dangerous appliances in house blazes

The fire in Sonia Gardens claimed six lives The fire in Sonia Gardens claimed six lives

Friday, January 4, 2013
2:15 PM

London Fire Brigade launched investigation after six family members died in Sonia Gardens

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Basma, 13, and little Yehya, two, who died in the Neasden house fireBasma, 13, and little Yehya, two, who died in the Neasden house fire

A report has ruled that modern fridges and freezers are the ‘most dangerous household appliance when involved in a fire’ following a house blaze in Neasden that claimed six lives.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) launched the report after Muna Elmufatish, 41, her daughters Hanin Kua, 14, Basma, 13, Amal, nine, and sons Yeha, two, and Mustafa, five, died after flames ripped through their home in Sonia Gardens, on September 24, 2011.

Only two members of the family survived the blaze, described by LFB as the worst house fire in London for a decade, father and husband Bassam Kua, who was 52 at the time, and daughter Nur, who was 17.

Last October, coroner Andrew Walker ruled that the fire was caused by a faulty chest freezer in the downstairs hallway.

He concluded that a capacitor inside the freezer, a Whirlpool brand, bought in 2002 at an independent shop, failed and caught fire.

The fire then spread to an adjacent compressor, housed in plastic, and as a result the fire was fuelled and spread through the house.

The findings of the report which was released today (Friday) showed fridges and freezers are of particular concern to LFB because they contain large amounts of plastic and highly flammable insulation, which can cause big fires that spread quickly.

This insulation also produces highly toxic gases when involved in a fire like the blaze in Sonia Gardens.

According to the report the way fridges and freezers are built and the materials used to make them have changed over recent years to include more plastic.

It goes on to say that when fires involving fridges or freezers in the UK are compared with those in the USA, where standards are different, it is more likely that people in the UK will be injured.

According to LFB estimates, in the USA there is an average of one injury for every 25 fires involving fridges, freezers or fridge freezers, but in the UK it is one in every five fires - according to figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Fire chiefs are calling for tougher safety standards so that the highly flammable insulation used in fridges and freezers is made safer from fire.

They believe it will reduce the number of injuries, and potentially deaths, caused by fires involving fridges and freezers.

Rita Dexter, Deputy Commissioner of the LFB, said: “Almost every home in Britain has a fridge or freezer and the chances are, it will be plugged in and working safely for years.

“Unfortunately, on rare occasions problems do occur and the result can be a big fire with potentially tragic consequences. This is why it’s so important to make sure that if a fire involving a fridge or freezer does start, it doesn’t spread.

“In the meantime, our advice is that if people notice any strange noises coming from their fridge or freezer, they should call the manufacturer or an electrical repair expert immediately.”

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