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Lockdown leads to spike in shed and garage fires

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Lockdown may have encouraged people to turn their sheds into offices, bars and yoga studios but these converted outbuildings are being blamed for a sharp rise in residential fires.

Insurer Zurich said shed and garage fires increased by nearly a fifth (16 per cent) in 2020, compared to the previous year.

It said the spike appears to be driven by people converting sheds and garages into offices, home gyms and garden bars.

Planning applications for garage conversions alone soared by 25 per cent last year, while there was a 7.5 per cent rise in people seeking permission for garden buildings and works.

Phil Ost, head of personal lines at Zurich, said: “With many of us stuck at home, we are spending more time in our gardens than ever before. Aside from storing gardening tools, our sheds and garages have become a haven to escape the stresses of family life and for others a place to work.

“But as Brits take refuge in their garden sheds and garages, it appears to have sparked a rise in accidental blazes.”

An increase in people buying pizza ovens and fire pits could also account for the jump in outbuildings going up in smoke, Ost said.

Data from a Freedom of Information request reveals fire and rescue services in Lancashire, Lincolnshire, West Sussex and North Yorkshire recorded the biggest surges in outbuilding fires.

Stuart Bensusan, from insurance specialist Surewise, told the BBC: “It highlights the importance of thoroughly vetting any storage facility you use and taking the necessary steps to protect your possessions while they are in it.

“Many consumers have complete faith in storage units, and unfortunately it simply never crosses their minds that something might happen to their unit, or the whole building. This leads to many customers being under-insured or worse having no insurance cover at all.”

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