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of the British Broadcasting Corporation

 

 

Monday, 26 November 2007, 15:59 GMT
Fire deaths drop to record low


Fire deaths in Scotland have fallen to their lowest recorded level, according to new figures.

The death toll dropped to 45 last year compared to 61 deaths over the same period during the previous year.

Alcohol misuse and a lack of working smoke alarms caused a number of the reported deaths.

The new report by HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services in Scotland also revealed that there were 316 verbal and physical attacks on firefighters.

Chief Inspector Jeff Ord said: "Attacks on firefighters fell slightly during the year and it is to be hoped that this is a trend that will continue.

"However, on over 300 occasions members of the service were subjected to physical or verbal abuse.

Alcohol use and misuse played a significant part in almost 50% of fire deaths in the home
Jeff Ord
HM Chief Inspector of Fire Services in Scotland

"This is completely unacceptable and continued effort to work with the public to address this issue is required by both the service and its community safety partners."

The annual figures revealed a 3% reduction in the number of property fires but a 3% increase in "secondary" fires, such as rubbish, nuisance or grassland fires.

The figures also showed a 3% rise in the total number of incidents attended across Scotland, mostly stemming from the secondary fires and a rise in false alarms with good intent.

More women were employed in operation roles, according to the report but there was still a need to focus on the "disappointing" diversity profile of the service.

'Difficult issues'

Mr Ord said the service performed well last year and the continuing focus on fire prevention was helping to make communities safer.

He added: "The reduction in fire deaths to the lowest level ever recorded is welcomed but every fire death is a tragedy and much more needs to be done to drive the figure down even lower.

"Notwithstanding the positive figures, I am still disappointed to note that the lack of a working smoke alarm was a factor in around 50% of fatal fires.

"In addition, alcohol use and misuse played a significant part in almost 50% of fire deaths in the home.

"Overall, I am encouraged that the leadership within the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is of the quality required to address the many difficult issues that face it."