THE past year saw north Wales firefighters being called to more house fires where there was no working smoke alarm, new figures have revealed.
Despite a general drop in the number of call-outs, the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s performance report for 2020/21 showed that while fire alarms were present at 85.8% of call-outs to accidental home fires, those to properties with no working smoke or heat detector rose from 43 to 51.
The year, dominated by lockdowns and Covid restrictions, saw the service attend 4,698 emergency incidents which was 174, or 3.6%, down on 2019/20.
In other headline figures:
804 primary fires compared to 967 in 2019/20, a 16.9% reduction.
Deliberate primary fires down 31.5%, from 248 to 170.
Secondary deliberate fires decreased by 31.9% to 276 from 405.
2,314 false alarms, a 1.8% increase from 2,274. False alarms made with good intent increased by 3.9% but malicious false alarms were down by 2.4%.
614 special service incidents, down 5.2% compared to 648 previously.
Road traffic collisions stood at 105 incidents, a 41.3% down on 179 in 2019/20. 70 of these saw an injured casualty while 42 resulted in someone having to be released from a vehicle
Accidental fires in dwellings increased to 360 from 356, with 91 non-fatal casualties and five fatalities.
Shân Morris, the Assistant Chief Officer, said during Monday’s Fire Authority meeting: “Overall, the service attended fewer emergency incidents and the trends continue to show a downward curve.”
But speaking of concern regarding the increase in incidents where no working smoke alarm was present, she added: “The battle is ongoing when it comes to encouraging people to fit and test their smoke alarms.
“Of the 360 accidental homes fires there were 165 with a smoke alarm present that worked as it should and warned the occupants.
“Of those 165 only nine spread further than the room where the fire started, so that early warning gave the occupants time to escape and avoid more damage to the property.
“But the disappointment is that despite years of encouragement and persuasion, and even pleading, for 51 there was no working smoke alarm, which shows that we still have work to do.”
Prompted by a question by Wrexham councillor Geoff Lowe, she added: “When it comes to social housing you tend to find its more definite there’ll be an alarm there, but finding patterns is quite difficult.
“We certainly do follow up to make sure that where we have come across premises where there isn’t one fitted that we don’t leave it at that and will always take action.
“If we can fit one there and then we will, but we do follow up.
“Its a constant round of discovering them and reacting accordingly, and a case of constant messaging to people.”
Cllr Lowe responded, “You sometimes fear that people aren’t really listening and my concerns are places like HMO’s, with the number of people occupying these properties, if there’s no smoke alarm there the consequences could be devastating.
“I hope they’re listening.”
It is recommended to test all smoke alarms once a week to ensure they are in full working order.
The North Wales Fire and Rescue Service can also provide ‘safe and well checks,’ including a free smoke alarm and installation service which usually takes around 20 minutes.
For more details visit www.nwales-fireservice.org.uk or call 0800 169 1234.