Warning after Scottish fire death numbers rise steeply

Picture: John Devlin
Picture: John Devlin
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AN urgent safety warning has been issued after the number of people dying in fires more than trebled in the first five months of the year.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said there were 28 fatalities to 31 May, up from just nine in the same period last year.

The service called on the public to put it in touch with vulnerable people most at risk of being involved in a fire, including the elderly and those with drug, alcohol or mental health problems.

Assistant Chief Officer Lewis Ramsay said: “To lose someone through fire is utterly devastating and it always leaves a lasting impact on the families, friends and communities touched by the tragedy.

“The sad reality is many fatal fires could be prevented. We know very simple steps are often the difference between life and death.

“Every one of us can make that difference just by talking to people we know who might be vulnerable and putting them in touch with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

“Fire threatens every home – we all need to understand it can happen to us and the people around us, consider the risks and live up to our responsibility to do what we can to save lives.”

He added: “Protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities isn’t something we can do alone. Reaching people who need some help to stay safe is always a challenge and we need the public’s help to meet it.”

Earlier this year, the fire service said it was dealing with an increase in the number of people committing suicide by setting themselves on fire.

Chief Officer Alasdair Hay said the service was investigating why around a quarter of all fire deaths last year had been among those taking their own life.

Mr Hay called for closer working relationships between the fire service, the police and social services.

The 28th death this year came after a man firefighters rescued from a blaze at a flat in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, last Thursday later died of his injuries.

In another recent incident, a man and a woman were taken to hospital suffering apparent smoke inhalation after a blaze at a flat in the Govan area of Glasgow yesterday.

Fire crews were called to the scene in Elphinstone Place at 12:10am on Sunday and found a fire in the bedroom of a first-floor flat.They extinguished the flames using a high-pressure jet.

The man and woman were taken to the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow for treatment.

The number of fire deaths in 2013-14 – the most recent figures available – was 33, which was the lowest number ever recorded by the Scottish Government.

The figure represented a 28 per cent drop on 2012-13.

The number of fires in homes also dropped to its lowest-ever level, falling nine per cent from 5,834 to 5,330.

The SFRS urged everyone to recognise the risks posed by fire and take steps to protect themselves and those around them.

They offer free home safety visits conducted by local crews at times convenient for the householder, during which firefighters also provide and install free smoke alarms where needed. Free home safety visits are available from SFRS by calling the freephone number 0800 073 1999, by texting FIRE to 80800 or by filling in an online form at www.firescotland.gov.uk.