Fancy-dress fire investigation welcomed

Fancy dress at Hallowe'en.
Fancy dress at Hallowe'en.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has welcomed a nationwide investigation into the safety of children’s fancy-dress costumes.

Earlier this year, it joined fire services across the country to warn parents of the fire risks posed to children by the outfits. The warning came after the Chief Fire Officers Association showed BBC’s Watchdog how quickly some children’s costumes burn if touched by fire.

The issue was highlighted in an interview with presenter Claudia Winkleman, whose daughter was burned in October last year when her Hallowe’en fancy dress costume caught fire.

Now, Government Business Secretary Sajid Javid has requested a nationwide investigation into the safety of children’s fancy-dress costumes.

Trading Standards inspectors will carry out spot checks on hundreds of retailers selling fancy-dress costumes in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The costumes will be subjected to flammability testing to assess whether they are safe for sale and compliant with safety standards.

Alex Bennett, chief fire officer for NFRS, said: “We are looking forward to seeing the outcome of the investigation and changes made to increase children’s safety. It is worth reminding people that care must always be taken when wearing fancy dress, regardless of any changes to safety standards.

“As we approach Hallowe’en, parents must remember that if their children are going to wear these costumes, they need to ensure that there are no naked flames around and they take extra care, especially if there are lit candles present.”

Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council with responsibility for NFRS and public protection, added: “We welcome this sampling project, but it is important we still get the message out there to residents about the potential danger of these items.

“Hallowe’en is the only time of year when we allow small children to be close to naked flames with minimal supervision. We would encourage parents not to use candles but to look at safer alternatives such as battery powered Hallowe’en toys.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is also working with the British Standards Institute to assess whether European safety standards in this area need to be improved. At present, there are rigid flammability controls for items that sare old as toys for fancy dress. The law is less specific for clothing that is not classed as toys, but there are General Product Safety Regulations that prohibit the marketing of any unsafe item.