SMOKING is the biggest cause of accidental fatal fires in the home, warn firefighters.

Deaths are often caused because of careless behaviour such as lighting up in bed or not taking care after drinking alcohol.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service will be supporting the national No Smoking Day on Wednesday, March 13.

There were 37 smoking-related fire incidents in Cheshire homes last year and there were 158 between the five years from January 1, 2014 to 31 December 21, 2018.

Station manager Lee McGarity, a member of the service's prevention team, said: “It is vital that people understand how dangerous smoking is, especially within your home.

“Smoking can start a fire that can put you and your loved ones’ lives at risk and destroy your home and your worldly possessions.

“Tobacco is designed to stay lit, so cigarettes, cigars and pipes can easily start an accidental fire, especially if you are sleepy or have been drinking alcohol.”

A third of all accidental fires in UK homes were caused by smoking materials in 2016-17.

The majority of such fires start in the living room, followed by the bedroom.

Station manager McGarity added: “Quitting smoking altogether is obviously the best way to remove the risk of having a smoking-related fire."

Healthcare professionals are available to help anyone wishing to quit smoking.

Firefighters have issued the following tips to prevent a smoking-related fire at home.

• Always ensure that cigarettes, cigars and pipes are properly extinguished

• Never smoke in bed

• Tap your ash into an ashtray, never a waste +basket containing other rubbish

• Make sure that your ashtray is heavy and cannot tip over easily and that it is made of a material which will not burn

• Do not let ash or cigarette or cigar ends build up in your ashtray

• Never leave a lit cigarette or cigar lying around – they can easily overbalance as they burn down and start a fire

• Take extra care if you smoke when you are tired, are taking prescription drugs or if you have been drinking alcohol – it is very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette, cigar or pipe is still burning

• Never smoke when under the influence of illegal drugs

• Always keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.

Residents are also advised to ensure that they have a working smoke alarm fitted on every level of their home and to test them regularly.