Fuel poverty fire risk warning

Wednesday August 31st 2022


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Fuel poverty could lead to an increase in fires in homes as “risky behaviour” increases, fire chiefs have warned.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Group Commander David Girrity has warned the emergency service is preparing for an increase on demand for its help in the coming months.

He told a meeting of Midlothian Police, Fire and Rescue Board, that as well as an increase in crime and fire-raising incidents, fires in homes will also be on the up as the cost of living crisis hits households.

He said: “The poverty of fuel, I can see that exacerbating the issues in relation to people who are vulnerable to fire.

“I can see that being more prevalent over the next few months and that is something that we are working as an organisation to reduce, to advise people and we will be reacting to it as well.

“I think it is something that we all know is going to be falling out of fuel poverty and other poverty, that potential incidences of crime and fire setting and fires in the home could increase so we need to keep a close eye on that one”

Hilary Sangster, Local Senior Officer for Midlothian, urged council partners to let the fire service know about vulnerable people they deal with that might be able to help.

She said: “Anyone that is going into properties where there is clearly behaviour that we can work with our partners to try and support and try and prevent fires is really important, particularly so with what David has already described in terms of challenges around money and heating and such like, with behaviour becoming a bit more risky, shall I say”

The board had heard that in the first three months of this year from April to June there had been 10 accidental housefires in Midlothian – nine of which happened in single person accommodation.

It said: “The main cause of fire is cooking (60%). Nine of the 10 fires had no fire damage, were limited to the first item ignited and/or confined to the room where the fire started and therefore, relatively minor in nature. It is clear from this evidence to continue to target those mostly at risk in single occupancy households and to ensure those properties have working smoke detection.”

Councillor Stephen Curran told the board there was, he felt, room for improvement over ensuring people at risk were referred to the fire service for support and advice.

He said: “It is not just about smoke alarms it is about behaviour, cigarettes, cooking and I think we could see an uplift in referrals from council to Scottish Fire and Rescue.”

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