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Rise in fire deaths bucks long-term trend

The number of deaths caused by fires in England has risen by its largest percentage in 20 years. 

Rise in fire deaths bucks long-term trend
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Data published by the Home Office, Fire Statistics Monitor: April 2015 to March 2016, showed that 303 people had died in fires in England during the period covered, 15% more than in 2014-15.

The report says the number of deaths bucked a broadly long-term downward trend. But, despite the rise, the figure for 2015-16 is 22% less than ten years ago, 46% less than 20 years ago and 61% less than 30 years ago. 

Fire services in England were called to 162,000 fires in 2015-16 – up 5% on the 155,000 in the previous 12 months. 

The Home Office has attributed this rise in deaths to an increase in accidental fires in people’s homes, as well as the Shoreham Airshow crash on 22 August 2015, in which 11 people died.

However, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) blamed the rise on the loss of 9,600 fire fighter jobs as a result of government cuts. 

Dave Green, national officer for the FBU, said: “These figures are a damning indictment of how this government have managed the fire and rescue service. They have slashed budgets without regard for public safety.

“The long-term trend of falling fire deaths is now going into reverse, with two consecutive rises in one year – the figures are released six monthly . This shows us very clearly that the fire and rescue service needs investment immediately if more lives are not to be lost.” 

The Operational Statistics Bulletin for England: 2014-15, released by the Department for Communities and Local Government last year, revealed that the number of fire fighters in England had fallen by 14.7% over the previous ten years.

Keeley Downey is assistant editor of IOSH Magazine

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