Dwelling fire deaths increase in latest statistics

Dwelling fire deaths increase in latest statistics

THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) said that the latest Home Office statistics, which showed a 9% increase in dwelling fire deaths, had them ‘very concerned’.

These latest statistics from the Home Office showed that despite the number of fires attended by fire and rescue services (FRSs) had fallen by 10% in the 12 months ending in September 2019, there was also a 9% increase in ‘dwelling fire fatalities’ in that same period – with the data covering all incidents, fire related deaths and casualties from fires across England.

In more detail, 163,039 fires were attended by FRSs – a 10% fall from the 182,013 attended in the previous 12 month period – and this was ‘particularly driven’ by a 13% fall in secondary fires, from 103,360 to 90,236, though the decrease was ‘across all fire types’. There were 69,534 primary fires, which made up 43% of all fires attended, and this was a 7% decrease compared with the previous year’s 74,730.

Similar decreases were identified for dwelling fires, other building fires and road vehicle fires, respectively decreasing 7%, 5% and 6%. In terms of fire related deaths, there were 252 recorded compared to 251 the year before, and 203 of these were in dwelling fires compared to 187 in the previous year, accounting for the aforementioned 9% increase. Finally, there were 6,980 non fatal casualties, a 2% decrease compared to the previous year’s 7,107.

In response, NFCC chair Roy Wilsher ‘raised his concerns’ about the fatality figures ‘not falling – despite the reduction in the number of incidents attended’. He stated: ‘It is pleasing to see the number of incidents has reduced by five per cent overall, and by 10 per in the number of fires attended. However, I am very concerned to see the number of fatalities has increased over the same timeframe; I would like to see more information and as to why this is.

‘I have made it clear that fire services are facing huge challenges when it comes to the built environment. This was abundantly clear from evidence given during the opening days of the second phase on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. While [FRSs] are doing all they can to minimise risk, two decades of building safety failure is not their responsibility to fix.

‘The reality is we need to ensure services can maintain - and improve - operational response while aligning integrated risk plans to this area of work. The new reality of the built environment which has emerged post Hackitt Building Safety Programme work is proving – in some cases – to be a largely unknown factor which we need to be able to respond to and understand.’

Mr Wilsher added: ‘Once again, this highlights the absolute reality that services are resourced to risk and not just demand. We are working closely with the [Local Government Association] on the next Comprehensive Spending Review [CSR], and we will have a dedicated team working within the Home Office on the CSR submission. It is essential we do not become complacent about the reduction in the number of incidents attended as the bigger picture is showing a more worrying trend.

‘We know the exceptionally hot weather in 2018 had an impact on the number of secondary fires during that period, which is largely responsible for the reduction we have seen in today’s statistics. It is also important to note that vitally important prevention activities take place across the UK to target those at highest risk, an area highlighted and commended in the recent State of Fire report.’