Oxfordshire fire service intends to send leaflets to the residents of timber frame buildings highlighting the potential fire risks.
The fire service hopes to begin the campaign in the autumn in the wake of safety concerns disclosed at a BRE seminar in Watford last month.

Steve Wain, fire risk support manager for Oxfordshire fire service, said timber frame buildings had to be treated differently to those made from brick and block as they contained inflammable material in cavities.

Wain said: "You cannot go drilling holes in the walls of timber frame buildings with gay abandon like you can with masonry – you could hit a nail and this could cause a problem."

He said particular care had to be taken using tools such as hot-air paint strippers, as they could easily start a fire.

He added that the problem was that people often did not realise they lived in a timber frame building and were unaware of the extra measures required.

The Oxfordshire service intends to examine all the planning records in the county to identify the location of all timber frame developments.

Wain said: "Once we have identified a particular development as being constructed from timber frame, we will send a fire engine and crew out with leaflets."

The literature will alert occupants to the fact that the building in which they live is timber-framed. It will also advise them to warn electricians and plumbers to take special care when carrying out maintenance, and warn householders to take extra care with DIY jobs.

In addition, Oxfordshire intends to issue regulations governing the conduct of fire crews that attend blazes at timber frame properties.

The fire service will in future stipulate that a crew must go back to the scene of the blaze four hours after putting it out, because of the risk that the fire could reignite in the cavity.

The seminar held at BRE last month demonstrated how an innocuous task such as drilling a hole in the wall of a timber frame building could start a fire.

The heat from the drill bit can start the timber smouldering inside the cavity and this can in turn lead to a fire starting several hours later. A fire in the cavity can then spread unchecked to adjoining property if builders have failed to install cavity barriers properly.