Latest fire response statistics released
THE HOME Office data showed an 11 second increase in response times to primary fires and a 32 second increase in response times to secondary fires year to year.
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) shared and commented on the results, noting that it had ‘voiced its concern’ that the new figures showed the increases compared to 2017/18, and that although response times have ‘been increasing gradually over the past 20 years’, there had been a ‘marked increase’ between 2017/18 and 2018/19. It noted that total response time is the ‘minutes and seconds elapsed from the time of call to the arrival of the first vehicle to the incident’.
Primary fires are ‘potentially more serious incidents that pose a threat to people or property’, and secondary fires are ‘broadly’ thought of as smaller outdoor fires ‘not involving people or property’. On average, primary fire response times increased by 33 seconds between 2013/14 and 2018/19, while the average total response time for 2018/19 was eight minutes and 49 seconds, an 11 second increase on 2017/18.
Three types saw increased average response in 2018/19: other buildings with seven seconds; road vehicles by eight seconds; and the ‘most notable’ increase of 48 seconds to other outdoor fires. The response time to dwelling fires decreased by one second year to year, while fire and rescue services (FRSs) in ‘predominantly urban’ areas had an average total response time of seven minutes and 41 seconds to primary fires in 2018/19, an increase of six seconds and 24 seconds respectively on 2017/18 and 2013/14.
For ‘significantly rural’ FRSs response time was nine minutes and 59 seconds, an increase of 13 seconds and 52 seconds respectively over 2017/18 and 2013/14; and the average total response time for ‘predominantly rural’ areas was 10 minutes 34 seconds, an increase of 18 seconds respectively over 2017/18 and 2013/14.
Call handling times for primary fires fell by one second to one minute 23 seconds, the ‘third consecutive decrease’ since a ‘peak’ of one minute 27 seconds in 2015/16; while crew turnout times ‘showed no change’ at one minute 37 seconds, and drive times increased by 11 seconds to five minutes and 48 seconds. In England, the increase in total response time was ‘entirely caused’ by the increase in average drive time, the NFCC noted.
The secondary fire response time increase was 32 seconds - for a total of nine minutes and 42 seconds – compared to 2017/18, which itself was an increase of 59 seconds since 2013/14, and the latest results also showed a 19% increase in secondary fires ‘due to a spell of hot, dry weather’. Call handling times increased by three seconds to one minute and 47 seconds, while crew turnout times ‘showed no change’ at one minute and 35 seconds.
Roy Wilsher, NFCC chair, commented: ‘The recent State of Fire report published by HMICFRS was positive in highlighting many areas of strength in the sector including its dedication to protect life and property and also states that fire and rescue service operational response is strong. But NFCC feel the statistical longer-term response time trends may be a cause for concern.
‘The response time increase for primary fires is concerning as these are the fires where we see the most injuries, fatalities and damage to property. The rise in response times to secondary fires is striking. However, we are experiencing changing risk due to climate change. In the UK there is a significant rise in wildfires during the summer, but we are also seeing a rise in non-fire incidents such as flooding.
‘[FRSs] are still struggling to recover from the austerity cuts of recent years which has included services seeing a 23 per cent reduction in wholetime firefighters. NFCC want to see investment in the [FRS] to maintain excellence. Government must ensure [FRSs] are sustainably funded with a move away from annual settlements which would enable better planning. They need to be resourced to risk as well as to demand, to support improvement and ensure public confidence.’