Headlines: March 27th, 2007



New figures show the number of deaths in fires in England has halved since 1981 and the number of fires is at its lowest level since 1988. Government ministers have praised initiatives run by front line fire and rescue staff for bringing about the reduction. The statistics record 140,300 fires compared to to the 2001 high of 188,400.

Fires in dwellings are also at their lowest since 1984, standing at 46,600. The Government believes the downward trend has been helped by an emphasis on prevention and the move after the 2003 White Paper to local determination of risk. That saw new policies such as allowing fire and rescue services to decide the type of fire cover and response that is necessary and a focus on the most vulnerable people. Since then more than 800,000 home fire risk checks have been carried out and more than a million smoke alrams fitted.

To mark the new figures fire and rescue authorities were invited to nominate staff to meet ministers to celebrate the success. Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, thanked them for their outstanding commitment and bravery. “We know that we must not rely solely on the 999 control staff and bravery of firefighters to save lives when fire breaks out. That is why the Government has invested 50 million pounds in fire prevention and awareness campaigns,” she said and added, “While the numbers of accidental and deliberate fires, false alarms, fire deaths and injuries are down, we must never be complacent. We must all play our part by recognising the risk to ourselves, to our families, and to our neighbours.”

The figures mean the average number of deaths in accidental home fires each year over the 7 years from 1999-2000 to 2005-06 stands at 274. That is five deaths below the Public Service Agreement target average and more than 20 per cent lower than the fatality levels of the mid to late 1990s. There were still more than 64,000 fire started deliberately but that was down 12 per cent on the figures for 2004.