Students urged to wake up to dangers of drink-cooking

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STUDENTS are being warned not to drink and cook as the fire brigade attempts to reduce the number of preventable fires breaking out across the Capital.

With the new academic term set to begin, Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service is urging students to put fire safety at the top of their list of priorities for the years ahead.

Firefighters attend numerous false alarms and minor fires in student halls across Edinburgh and the Lothians each year, particularly around the start of term.

Cooking and cigarettes are two of the most common causes of fire, with firefighters are also often called to blazes started by candles.

In one example, a 21-year-old student was taken to hospital with burns after pouring cold water on a chip pan that had caught fire. The fire service received a call to Kincaid’s Court student accommodation in January last year after the woman’s flatmates raised the alarm. She suffered burns to her left hand and left arm.

In March this year, three students were treated in hospital after a bedroom bin fire.

The blaze took hold in a first-floor flat in South Clerk Street and is thought to have been caused by a cigarette end.

Community safety manager at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, Steve Harkins, said: “We want students to enjoy their studies safe from the risk of fire. For many young people it will be their first time living away from home and it is important that they have a working smoke detector in their halls or flat, and know what to do if fire breaks out.

“They can reduce the likelihood of an accidental fire by making sure they don’t cook or smoke indoors after they have been drinking. Alcohol makes people slower to react in an emergency and there is always the risk of falling asleep with a lit cigarette or grill left on. The smoke from a fire can kill in minutes. Tea lights and candles are also common causes of fires in student accommodation.”

He added: “Lastly, we can’t stress enough the importance of respecting fire alarm systems. Never set off a fire alarm maliciously. Firefighters will be mobilised to attend under 999 conditions. If it is a hoax call, this puts fire crews at risk unnecessarily and also diverts them away from dealing with a genuine fire call elsewhere.” 
In 2010-11, Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service was called out almost 300 times to false alarms at colleges and universities.

The unnecessary call-outs were mainly the result of automatic fire alarms going off, although they also included hoax calls and malicious activation of break glass points. It costs around £450 per hour to send one fire engine and a crew out to an incident.