London

Fire risk warning over faulty Beko fridge freezers

Fire at flat in Lupin Point
Image caption Last week's fire was in a tower block

Up to 500,000 fridge freezers could be posing serious fire risks in homes and businesses across the country, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has warned.

The LFB said a fire in London last week, which was originally thought to have been caused by a lightning strike, was caused by a Beko appliance.

Beko has been alerted to the problem which the LFB says has caused 20 fires and one death in London since 2008.

The company said it was contacting customers to fix the problem for free.

People who own models manufactured between January 2000 and October 2006 have been advised to check on the trading standards website to see if their appliance is affected.

Over the last three years the LFB's investigation team has been working to establish a link between a faulty defroster timer switch on the appliances and a number of house fires.

The problem occurs when water gets into the defrost timer switch, which can lead to an electrical malfunction resulting in plastic components and other highly flammable insulation inside the appliance catching fire.

The brigade formally alerted Beko to the problem in June 2010 and the manufacturer has been trying to locate the products so that the fault can be corrected.

Last Tuesday, a fire broke out at a 21-storey tower block in Bermondsey, south-east London.

Initially, it was blamed on a lightning strike but investigators later said it had started due to the faulty appliance.

Steve Turek, assistant commissioner for fire safety regulation, said: "Any fire can be lethal but the LFB is particularly concerned about this because fires involving any sort of fridge freezer develop rapidly and produce an enormous amount of toxic smoke.

"Having established this link, we have worked closely with Beko to ensure the public is kept safe.

"However, the brigade urges everyone who has a Beko fridge freezer to check it is not one of those highlighted by the company as potentially faulty."

A Beko spokesman said: "We have contacted all retailers who sold these products to seek their help in identifying affected customers from their sales records.

"This has allowed us to mail these customers to make them aware of the issue and to urge them to contact our freephone number to arrange the modification.

"As a result of this ongoing activity we have mailed over 100,000 owners and have successfully located and modified 11,000 units."

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