Significantly less of one type of fire in Oslo. It may be due to the life many are now living.



Updated fire figures for Oslo have caused astonishment to the fire service. Has the increased use of the home office helped reduce fires in the kitchen?

This photo was taken after a fire in a kitchen in Oslo. There have been significantly fewer such fires in the capital since March. Photo: Audun Braastad / Oslo Fire and Rescue Service

It is not without reason that firefighters had their say in March, when many moved their jobs home.

Wouldn’t more cooking and a greater load on the grid increase the risk of fire? The fire brigade in Oslo was therefore prepared for more fires in the home.

But the exact opposite has happened. And there is one cause of fire in particular that contributed to the numbers dropping down. Fewer fires have started on or in kitchen stoves.

– In March we sat and thought: what happens now? But knowing what life was like these months today, it is perhaps not surprising that there have been fewer such fires, says Sigurd Folgerø Dalen.

He is a fire inspector and acting information manager with the Oslo Fire and Rescue Service.

Fire Inspector and Acting Information Manager Sigurd Folgerø Dalen with the Oslo Fire and Rescue Service. Photo: Lars Magne Hovtun / Oslo Fire and Rescue Service

First of all, an Oslo trend

On a national basis, the effects on the statistics are not significant. But in Oslo – where most people have probably moved their jobs home – it’s possible to talk about a trend.

In the first ten months of 2019, there were 35 major construction fires in Oslo that started with food or objects on or in the stove. In the same period of this year, there were 16 such fires.

– It’s a significant drop, and it’s positive. But the question is what the reason for this is, says Folgerø Dalen.

The proportion of stove fires in all fires indicates an even clearer trend. In 2019 they were responsible for 11.8 percent of the fires. This year the share has fallen to 5.5 percent. What happened?

– I think these numbers tell us something about how important a balanced and less stressful life is for fire safety.

Indicates two reasons for the decline

The fire brigade believes that the decline may be related to the life pattern created by the corona. It is likely in the capital that this pattern has changed the most for most people. Here we see at least the biggest change with this type of fire. Two reasons are emphasized:

  • Home office has reduced daily stress. Time pressure is no longer so tight.
  • Fewer people come home drunk late at night and put on the stove to cook their dinner.

– The peace and time that the corona has created has led many people to live more fire-resistant, Folgerø Dalen concludes.

However, a large proportion of the fires with unknown causes are uncertain. These numbers may hide cases where the stove was the cause of the fire this year, but not last year.

– Therefore, the reason for the decline is based a bit on speculation, but we can still vouch for the assessments we made on this, says Folgerø Dalen.

Also had fewer incidents with boiling dry

The development is also confirmed by pure dry cooking events that have not developed into full fire. So far there have been 339 such cases this year, compared to 467 last year.

This is about overheating, smoke from the frying pan and pots or other things that lead to large smoke development and trigger the alarm.

– The distinction between boiling dry and construction fires is where the flames from the stove spread to other parts of the kitchen and the building, Folgerø Dalen explains.

He also recalls the importance of having smoke detectors close to the kitchen. This way, smoke development can be reported as early as possible.

I hope it changed attitudes

But the fire brigade in Oslo is still looking forward to the end of the year. Will the trend continue until the new year? December is normally one of the worst months for fires. The fire brigade is not sure what this year’s Christmas month will look like.

– It is not easy to say how corona wear and insulation will affect the number of fires. Here there are variables that we as a fire service cannot control.

Another uncertain factor is what will happen when society returns to normal. Will the number bounce back to the level in 2019?

– There is a risk that it will get higher again. At the same time, we can hope that this period has developed some attitudes that people carry with them.

This fire on Østensjø in Oslo started on the stove in the kitchen. An elderly woman escaped by entering the balcony. Photo: Lars Magne Hovtun / Oslo Fire and Rescue Service

But it burns just as well in other buildings

However, the decrease in the number of fires starting in the kitchen does not illustrate a general development in Oslo.

The figures show that in the first ten months of the year there were 89 fires in public buildings and industrial buildings, among others. That is six more than in the same period last year.

The fire department points out that many have still been employed in schools, kindergartens, in industry, in the health sector and in other industries.

– The load there may have been even greater than usual. This may be one of the reasons why we have not experienced a decline in that area, says Sigurd Folgerø Dalen.


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