More people dying in fires because service ‘cut to bone’, says union

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Firefighters’ leaders have described new figures showing an increase in fires and fatalities as “horrifying”.

Fire and rescue services attended over 170,500 fires in England in the year to last September, an increase of 9% on the previous year.

The number of fire-related fatalities increased from 253 to 346, including 71 from the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

There were almost 3,300 non-fatal casualties requiring hospital treatment, up by 138 on the previous 12 months, official figures showed.

The fire service attended more than 566,000 incidents, a 3% increase, with almost a third for fires, a similar number for other incidents and the rest for false alarms.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said: “All we hear from government when they attempt justification of butchering the fire and rescue service is that ‘fires are down’ – this is now clearly no longer a claim they can make.

“They wrote off last year’s rise in fires as a ‘blip’, what will they put it down to this year?

“It isn’t complicated, the fire and rescue service is cut to the bone, and the result is more people dying in fires because crews can no longer respond promptly and in sufficient numbers to tackle fires professionally, quickly and effectively.

“How many more rises in these worrying figures before they join up the dots? How many more people are going to have to die?

“On the day of the publication of these figures, we again call for investment, not more cuts. We can’t make it any plainer.”

The Home Office said the number of fires was down by around half compared with a decade ago.

The total number of incidents had been on a downward trend for a decade, but had increased in recent years.

A Home office spokesman said: “Public safety is a Government priority and our fire and rescue services do vital, life-saving work day in and day out.

“There has been a long-term downward trend in the number of fires and fire-related fatalities. Over the past 10 years there has been a 49% decrease in the total number of fires attended by fire and rescue services and a five per cent reduction in the number of fire-related fatalities.

“There is no question that fire and rescue services still have the resources they need to do their important work.

“Each authority must evaluate local risks and determine its priorities, policies and standards for fire prevention, protection and operational services and allocate its resources accordingly.”