We speak with people everyday regarding downlights & one thing that always seems to pop in to conversation from time to time is the misconception that a downlight or recessed lighting is manufactured & given a 'fire rating' to stop the downlight itself causing a fire. Perhaps as the downlight may get so hot from the lamp inside that it may set fire to the ceiling? Or possibly there may be an electrical problem with the downlight that may cause a fire?
In actual fact when a downlight is classed as fire rated it is not to protect the fitting itself from causing a fire but actually it is designed to stop the spread of fire from one floor in a building to another. If a fire started in a ground floor room and intensified then standard recessed downlights in the ceiling would simply drop out leaving their holes exposed allowing the flames to spread through the ceiling to the upper level. Fire rated downlights have a layer of intumescent (fire retardent) material that seals the downlight to the ceiling. They also have a metal can at the rear that replaces the purpose of the older style intumescent material covers that would contain the fire.
These types of products will also have a rating in minutes. Some are 60 minutes fire rated, others can be 90 minutes or maybe even more. This simply explains how long the unit can reasonably be expected to hold back a fire. They should certainly expect to withstand the flames in enough time for the fire brigade to extinguish the fire. Of course fire rated downlights are one way to stop a fire spreading but the best course is to avoid a fire in the first place. Take a look at the blog by ukhomeimprovement that details some of the main causes of fire in the home and what can be done to prevent it.