The number of individuals in England who die in fire-related incidents has seen its largest percentage increase in the past 20 years. The Home Office published data that shows that in 2015-16, 303 individuals died in fires which is a 15% increase over the prior 12 months. “This is a frightening and the pattern should not be repeated next year,” says the operational manager at TPT Fire.
Highest Fatality Rates
The highest fatality rates occurred in the Cumbria and Cambridgeshire fire services. According to the Fire Service Minister, fire deaths had previously shown a long-term downward trend. In 2015-16, according to the figures, fire services over England had to attend to approximately 162,000 fires – which was a 7,000 increase over the prior year. Out of those incidents, there were 303 fire-related fatalities recorded by the fire services which was 39 times more than the prior 12 months.
Over the last three decades, the number of individuals dying in fires in England had been falling at a steady rate with 22% lower fire-related fatalities compared to 2005-06. According to the Home Office, the increase in death is due to there being an increase in accidental fires occurring at people’s homes in addition to an increase in fatal fires that involved aircraft. In 2015 the Shoreham air show tragedy resulted in 11 deaths that were fire related.
25 deaths for every 1,000 primary house fire
There were also wide variations found in fatality rates for “primary” house fires, which are classified as the most serious type in domestic settings. The fire and rescue services in Cumbria and Cambridgeshire last year experienced the highest fatality rates, which was the equivalent of 25 deaths for every 1,000 primary house fire. The average in England, by comparison, was seven deaths for each 1,000 house fires.
Cameron Matthews, who is the Secretary for the Cambridge Fire Brigade Union called these figures heartbreaking and went on to say that, in effect, they now had a postcode lottery pointing out that Cambridgeshire has suffered some of the highest percentage budget cuts in the country. Experienced firefighters have been lost and clearly, the government cuts were resulting in loss of life.
Government cuts not to blame?
A Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson stated that to date they had not made any cuts that impacted their front line service and no correlation could, therefore, be made. The spokesperson added that fire deaths do fluctuate on a yearly basis, but are always in the low single figures, and noted that of all of the country’s fire and rescue services that they have the first lowest amount of dwelling fires, so that was a positive and good story.
In 2015 the Department for Communities and Local Government compiled data showing the number of firefighters over England had decreased by 14.&% over the prior decade and over the last six long term years fire service response times had increased. The claim was strongly refuted by the Home Office that the increase in fire-related deaths could be attributed to funding cuts.
Brandon Lewis, who is the Minister of the Fire Service and Policing state that any death due to fire was a tragedy. He added that there long-term downward trend for many years for both fire deaths and firest and that they had reached historically low levels recently.