The Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC), which claims to represent the UK’s domestic oil heating and cooking industry, issued advice to householders yesterday following a fire involving two oil tanks in the early hours of yesterday morning that gutted a house in Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland has the highest prevalence of heating oil in the UK, with almost 65% of homes in the province dependent upon oil for space and water heating. OFTEC is once again urging homeowners and householders to ensure fire safety is given due consideration when it comes to installing, resiting and protecting heating oil tanks.
The fire destroyed the two-storey detached house, hitting the householder’s oil tank. It also spread to a neighbour’s garden, setting a second oil tank alight. The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) reported that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
David Blevings, OFTEC says, “Oil is a very safe fuel, provided it is stored correctly. Tank fires have the potential to be extremely dangerous and, as sadly highlighted in this case, to substantially damage properties. The best way to protect yourself and others is to make sure your oil tank and any oil burning appliances are inspected and serviced by an OFTEC registered technician at least once a year .”
“During a service, an OTFEC technician will look at your tank to ensure that fire separation distances have been met. Building control require oil tanks to be placed with minimum separation distances from properties and boundaries; while these are not enforceable retrospectively, good practice would recommend they are met. If they can’t be met, for example, in a small rear yard, the placement of fire safety panel(s) that provide a minimum 30 minute fire-resistant wall which extends at least 300mm above and beyond the ends of an oil tank can offer suitable protection.
“Should fire occur, the fitting of a fire panel can be instrumental in halting its spread of your property and beyond. Yesterday’s fire highlights the very real threat of unprotected oil tanks and we are strongly urging householders to review the positioning of their oil tank and if necessary, to take action.”
As well as the human risk, an unprotected oil tank can cause substantial damage to property if set alight. Government statistics estimate the average cost of damage caused by a house fire is £25,000. To avoid the risks, OFTEC advises that householders should have their oil tank and fittings inspected by a suitably-qualified, competent person at least once a year to check for leaks, damage or defects. Detailed guidance on oil tank fire safety requirements can be found in British Standard BS5410 and OFTEC Technical Instruction Book 3.