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6 July 2011, 12:33
A fridge-freezer company's warning up to 500,000 of its units could be at risk of catching fire.
Beko, who are based in Watford, Hertfordshire, have issued the warning after London Fire Brigade discovered 20 fires in London since 2008 have been caused by a faulty component in Beko fridge-freezers. Fifteen people were injured in the fires and one person has died.
The most recent of these fires was in June 2011, which firefighters initially thought had been caused by a lightning strike.
Problems occur when water gets into the fridge-freezer's defrost timer switch, which can lead to an electrical malfunction. This can lead to plastic components and other highly flammable insulation inside the fridge-freezer igniting.
Particular models of Beko fridge-freezers made between January 2000 and October 2006 are affected.
Steve Turek, assistant commissioner for fire safety regulation, said: "Any fire can be lethal but the London Fire Brigade is particularly concerned about this because fires involving any sort of fridge freezer develop rapidly and produce an enormous amount of toxic smoke.
"Expert fire investigators have had to work for a long time to confidently establish these faulty fridge freezers as the cause of a number of serious fires. 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. I would also urge everyone to make sure they have a working smoke alarm in their house.''
A Beko spokesman said: "Since becoming aware of the issue, Beko has been working closely with the London Fire Brigade and Trading Standards to identify the issue and the best method of reaching all affected consumers and arranging a modification.
"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.
"We are working with British Gas and a major electronics retailer to contact owners of these products and carry out a free of charge modification to replace the defrost timer. We have adopted a phased approach which allows us to make maximum use of their resource. This allows us to quickly identify which products are affected and have the modification carried out.
"As a result of this ongoing activity we have mailed over 100,000 owners and have successfully located and modified 11,000 units."
The models affected are:
Anyone with concerns can contact Beko by calling their freephone number 0800 009 4837 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or visiting www.beko.co.uk