Insurer Zurich has warned that outbuilding fires – in sheds, garages and conservatories – rose by 16 per cent last year when national lockdowns resulted in a surge in people turning their sheds into offices, or ‘shoffices’.
New data revealed through freedom of information requests by insurer Zurich to UK fire authorities have shown that 33 out of the 45 regions in the UK, which responded, experienced a jump in the number of outbuilding fires during 2020.
The figures also showed that there were 3,681 residential outbuilding fires recorded in 2020, compared with 3,170 the year before.
The rise in fires comes after planning applications for garage conversions increased by a quarter last year, according to widespread reports.
Converting residential outbuildings, including sheds, garages and conservatories, into home offices, bars or home gyms became popular during lockdown when most people were confined to their homes.
Phil Ost, head of personal lines at Zurich, said: “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.
“Homeowners up and down the country have converted outbuildings into everything from bars and yoga studios, to gyms and offices.
“But as Brits take refuge in their garden sheds and garages, it appears to have sparked a rise in accidental blazes.
“Likewise, the huge increase in people buying pizza ovens and fire pits, which carry a fire risk if not extinguished correctly, could also account for the jump in outbuildings going up in smoke.”
A survey by fellow insurer, Aviva, earlier this year suggested that one in 10 of those asked worked from a converted shed, garage or summerhouse – a proportion expected to rise to 13 per cent, according to the BBC.