Brigade fails to meet fire death target

By James HoreA FIRE brigade has failed to meet a key target for preventing people dying in blazes, it has been revealed. A report has revealed there were 14 deaths from fires that were “preventable” between April 2004 and March 2005 - compared with a Government target of six fatalities.

By James Hore

A FIRE brigade has failed to meet a key target for preventing people dying in blazes, it has been revealed.

A report has revealed there were 14 deaths from fires that were “preventable” between April 2004 and March 2005 - compared with a Government target of six fatalities.

The majority of the people who died in those 12 months were elderly people who were known to be the most at risk of harm.


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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the report proved Essex fire service's emphasis on prevention was simply not working.

But David Turner, Essex Chief Fire Officer, said the development of a “home fire risk assessment” scheme would help to prevent future deaths.

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He added: “We average about 8.4 deaths per year and we were going along quite well to meet our targets and then we had a disaster in January when we had about seven deaths.

“The people who died - we could have predicted the deaths, not in terms of the individuals, but that they would have all been over 65, most of them would have been living alone and that is why we have invited people to let us know where the most at risk in society are so we can help.

“It was a matter of coincidence there were so many in one month rather than a failure on our part.”

Mr Turner said that despite the missed targets, which are set by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, he was still in favour of performance being measured.

“I think the targets are a good idea so we don't take our eye off the issues. We are talking about eight or nine deaths a year compared to many more every week who are killed on motorbikes and scooters,” he added.

“It is relatively low, but we must never take it for granted and drive is as low as we can as one fire death is too many.”

Mr Turner said the fire service was working on prevention measures such as installing smoke detectors into vulnerable people's homes.

“What we are trying to do is to get friends and neighbours and relatives to tell us if people are living alone and ask if they want us to come round and check the electrics, install a smoke detector or even, in some cases, install sprinklers,” he added.

“Under the legislation we cannot require smoke detectors in people's homes, but we can recommend them.”

But Graham Noakes, regional secretary of the East Anglian branch of the FBU said: “The deaths come at a time when the fire service is taking money out of frontline services and putting it into fire safety projects, which clearly are not working.

“The FBU says we should only reduce the level of fire cover once the fire safety initiatives work and this is clearly not the case.

“There has been a major increase in the number of deaths of people in Essex, including firefighters - is it coincidence or is it the result of the priorities being wrong?”

The report said Essex fire service had “performed well” dealing with accidental dwelling fires, false alarms and hoax calls.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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