Significantly fewer of one type of fire in Oslo. It may be due to the life many are living now.

Updated fire figures for Oslo have created astonishment in the fire service. Has increased use of home office contributed to fewer fires starting in the kitchen?

This photo was taken after a fire in a kitchen in Oslo. Since March, there have been significantly fewer such fires in the capital. Photo: Audun Braastad / Oslo Fire and Rescue Service

It was not without reason that firefighters had their say in March, when many moved their jobs home.

Would not increased cooking and greater load on the power grid increase the risk of fire? The fire service in Oslo was therefore prepared for more house fires.

But the exact opposite has happened. And there is one fire cause in particular that has helped bring the numbers down. Fewer fires have started on or in stoves in the kitchen.

– In March we sat and thought: What happens now? But when we today know what life has been like these months, it is perhaps not so surprising that there have been fewer such fires, says Sigurd Folgerø Dalen.

He is a fire inspector and acting information manager at the Oslo Fire and Rescue Service.

Fire inspector and acting information manager Sigurd Folgerø Dalen at the Fire and Rescue Service in Oslo. Photo: Lars Magne Hovtun / Oslo Fire and Rescue Service

First and foremost, an Oslo trend

On a national basis, the effects on the statistics are not large. But in Oslo – where most people have probably moved their jobs home – it is possible to talk about a trend.

In the first ten months of 2019, there were 35 major building fires in Oslo that started in food or objects on or in the stove. During the same period this year, there were 16 such fires.

– It is a significant decline, and it is positive. But the question is what is the reason for this, says Folgerø Dalen.

The share of stove fires in all fires tells an even clearer trend. In 2019, they accounted for 11.8 percent of the fires. This year, the share is down to 5.5 percent. What happened?

– I think these numbers tell us a little about how important a balanced and less stressful life is for fire safety.

Points to two reasons for the decline

The fire service believes that the decline may be due to the life pattern the corona has created. It is probably in the capital that this pattern has changed the most for most people. In any case, this is where we see the biggest change in this type of fire. Two reasons are highlighted:

  • Home office has reduced everyday stress. The time constraint is no longer as tight.
  • Fewer people come home drunk late at night and put on the stove to cook their night food.

– The calm and the time that the corona has created, has led to many people living more fireproof, Folgerø Dalen concludes.

A high proportion of fires with unknown causes, however, constitute an uncertainty. These figures may hide cases where the stove was the cause of the fire this year, but not last year.

– Therefore, the reason for the decline is based a bit on speculation, but we can still vouch for the assessments we have made of this, says Folgerø Dalen.

Has also had fewer incidents with dry cooking

The development is also confirmed by pure dry-cooking events that have not developed into a full fire. There have been 339 such cases so far this year, compared with 467 cases last year.

This is about overheating, smoke from the frying pan and pots or other things that lead to large smoke development and trigger the alarm.

– The distinction between dry cooking and building fire is where the flames from the stove spread to other parts of the kitchen and the building, Folgerø Dalen explains.

He also reminds how important it is to have smoke alarms close to the kitchen. Thus, the development of smoke can be notified as early as possible.

Hope it has changed attitudes

But the fire service in Oslo is still excited about the end of the year. Does the trend continue until the New Year? December is normally one of the worst months for fires. The fire service is unsure of what this year’s Christmas month will be like.

– It is not easy to say how corona wear and insulation will affect the number of fires. Here, there are variables that we as a fire department are also not able to control.

Another uncertain factor is what will happen when society returns to normal. Will the number bounce back to the level in 2019?

– There is a risk that it will be higher again. At the same time, we can hope that this period has established some attitudes that people take with them.

This fire on Østensjø in Oslo started on the stove in the kitchen. An elderly woman escaped by going out on the balcony. Photo: Lars Magne Hovtun / Oslo Fire and Rescue Service

But it burns just as much in other buildings

However, the decline in fires that start in the kitchen does not illustrate a general development in Oslo.

The figures show that there have been 89 fires in, among other places, public buildings and commercial buildings in the first ten months of the year. That is six more than in the same period last year.

The fire service points out that there are still many who have been at work in schools, kindergartens, in industry, in the health sector and in other industries.

– There, the load may have been even greater than normal. This may be one reason why we have not experienced a decline in that area, says Sigurd Folgerø Dalen.

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