Concern over ‘unusual spike’ in fire deaths

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The Fire Brigades Union has voiced its concerns over the impact of cuts to the service after figures showed a sharp rise in the number of deaths in accidental house fires in West Yorkshire.

Between April and July of this year eight people died in non-deliberate fires – four times as many as in the same period last year.

And in August this year, Lorraine Darwin, 49, died in hospital after being rescued from a house fire on Greenwood Road in Tingley.

An investigation found the fire was started after a tea light was knocked over.

Ian Bitcon, the brigade’s area safety manager, said crews got to every fire within the target response times and insisted the spike was a statistical anomaly.

But Dave Williams, secretary of the FBU in West Yorkshire, said the loss of firefighters and the closure of stations was having an impact.

He said: “Certainly the number of deaths in this short timescale is unique, but the problem we have got is that it’s something we said would happen at the time.

“If you are unable to save yourself in the case of a fire, the thing that will save you isn’t a smoke detector, it’s a firefighter and when minutes matter, those firefighters need to be available instantly.”

Of the eight victims of accidental house fires between April and July, the youngest was 55 and the oldest 99.

Mr Bitcon said he was confident the rise in fire deaths in West Yorkshire was “just a very unusual spike”. He said: “We are concerned and statistically it’s very unusual. But the number of fire deaths we have had has been gradually falling over the last 26 years.”