Millions go up in smoke every year

A third of the £380m fire damage to UK homes last year was not covered by home insurance, costing the occupiers £126m, said the Association of British Insurers (ABI) as it launched Fire Safety Week.

The cost of fire damage has risen by £27m a year in the past five years but, despite this, industry figures show that more and more homes are either underinsured or not insured at all, partly because home buyers often do not automatically buy insurance from their mortgage lender. Coupled with this is the problem of occupiers underestimating the value of goods in their home and therefore the level of cover they need.

The value of the contents of a typical home has increased by more than 40 per cent over the past decade, from £29,600 to almost £42,000. But one in five homes nationwide and one in three homes in the London area have no home contents insurance at all.

To support Fire Safety Week, the Asda supermarket chain is today launching a "Fight Fire" campaign to highlight the inadequate levels of insurance among homeowners and lack of low-cost fire prevention devices such as smoke-alarms and fire extinguishers in UK homes.

David Rutley, director of new business at Asda, said: "The average bill for fire damage in the home is about £900, but can rise to thousands. If you're underinsured, you could be looking at a hefty bill, on top of the stress of seeing your personal effects destroyed. We strongly urge homeowners to protect themselves on two fronts - by installing smoke alarms and making sure they have adequate home insurance."

According to Asda, getting the right level of cover does not necessarily mean hefty premiums. Shopping around can shave up to £100 off the cost of cover.

Said Mr Rutley: "In many instances a fire and the subsequent damage caused could be avoided by spending just £3.97 on a smoke alarm.

"One in five people doesn't have a smoke alarm in their home, usually because they don't believe they're at risk or haven't got around to buying one. Nearly eight out of 10 homes don't own a fire extinguisher, which could halt a fire before it takes hold."

Asda advises fitting smoke alarms where you can hear them throughout your home - at the top of the staircase, hallways, corridors or landings.

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