1,600 fire brigade call-outs due to student cooking


WOEFUL attempts by Scottish students to cook for themselves resulted in at least 1,600 fire brigade call-outs over the past decade.

One brigade reported an average of two emergencies a week caused by undergraduates’ bungled attempts to make toast.

The problem is so serious that Scottish fire fighters have been forced to introduce special safety classes for university chiefs to help them get the message across to students.

Lothian and Borders revealed that they attended 739 call outs over the past three because of student cuisine going wrong.


The 999 responses cost brigades up to £120 each, meaning student cooking catastrophes may have cost taxpayers in excess of £195,000 in the past 10 years.

Figures released under Freedom of Information show there were at least fire brigade call-outs to student housing in the past decade.

The actual figure is certain to be much higher because many brigades  did not provide figures for the entire ten-year-period.

Lothian and Borders gave three years of statistics but these revealed 739 call outs due to student cuisine going wrong.

Last year, firefighters in Lothian dealt with 102 calls specifically related to “burnt toast” – more than two a week.

In the Grampian region, fire fighters have been called out 341 times to student accommodation since April 2009.

The vast majority of these incidents were false alarms, but of the 52 actual fires, 48 were due to overheated pans and another caused by an “electrical appliance” – with each episode costing the fire brigade up to £118.

Fife fire and rescue dealt with 104 call outs related to cooking since February 2008.

These included dealing with “cooking fumes”, “burnt toast” and “radiated heat from cooker left unattended”.

Scotland’s biggest force, Strathclyde, revealed there were 262 actual fires caused by student cooking since 2002.

Central fire had eight cooking related call-outs to student accommodation since 2010 and Northern reported 25 fires “caused by cooking” since 2009.

Highlands and Islands had two incidents recorded since 2002 including two incidents of an “alarm activated due to cooking fumes.”  And Dumfries and Galloway three call outs in the past ten years – with one caused by cooking fumes.

Ian Gilbertson, station manager and fire safety manager at Fife Fire and Rescue said the force had been working with university bosses and offering advice to cut down on the number of cooking-related incidents.

He added: “We do attend these types of call outs, often from people who are living in student accommodation.

“A lot of students will be living away from home for the first time and problems can occur from people leaving their cooking unattended, not having properly fitted smoke detectors, smoking and using candles.
“We are working with universities to promote fire safety, in order to cut down on the number of call outs we make. I would say that the problem does seem to be improving.”

Michelin-star chef Martin Wishart, who runs a cook school in Edinburgh, said, said students could avoid so many kitchen mishaps if they learnt basic cooking skills before leaving home.

He added: “Many students don’t look after their diets and cooking offers you a great way of life.

“Before you leave home I would highly recommend you learn your family’s favourite dishes, cook along with your mum or dad or any family member.

“Learning early how to cook is crucial. Cooking should be part of any curriculum.

“If you know how to cook, you will increase the chances to make friends quicker; it is a great social hobby.  It will allow you to relax and take a break from studying.

“Knowing how to cook helps you also to save money, rather than buying pre-made food or takeaways. Eating well comes hand in hand with knowing how to cook.”


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  1. This fire is extremely tragic especially since dorm fires are preventable. In fact, 72 percent of college campus fires are cooking-related. Campus cooking fires cause more than $25 million in damages each year. An inexpensive way to prevent tragedies from cooking is to have the college install an automatic range top suppression system over each stove in dorm room cooking areas. They are designed to detect and extinguish cooking fires and at the same time prevent re-ignition.

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