Calls for cuts to firefighting services to be stemmed after increase in fatal fires in South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire saw a rise in the number of lives lost in fires and and the number of callouts to blazes in the county last year.

Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 11:52 am

The Fire Brigades Union branded a 27 per cent increase in fire fatalities across England as ‘terrifying’ and urged the Government to stem cuts to firefighting services.

The statistics have been released by the Home Office and show that nine people died as a result of fires attended by the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service last year – up from eight in 2020, and eight in 2019.

Among those who lost their lives in fires last year was a 62-year-old man who died in a house fire in Chaucer Road, Mexborough in January, and a man in his 80s who died in a blaze in an industrial unit in Infirmary Road, Sheffield, in November.

Firefighters in action (Photo: Tim Ansell/ SYFRS)

Fire fatalities in South Yorkshire peaked in 2015 and 2014, when 12 lives were lost.

Nationally, there were 280 fire fatalities in 2021 – the highest number since 2017, when the Grenfell Tower disaster occurred, claiming 72 lives.

There were 98 deaths between October and December, the most recorded for the period since 2008.

The Home Office cautioned that numbers can fluctuate between quarters, but added that it will monitor the situation for any ongoing trends.

A spokesperson said annual deaths remained down on historic figures, having fallen by 12 per cent compared to 2011.

The FBU called the rising number of deaths an ‘utter tragedy’ but said that it is not surprising, given Government cuts to firefighting services over the last decade.

Branding Westminster responsible, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “The Government has cut around 11,000 firefighters since 2010 and response times have lengthened.

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“This should serve as a real wake-up call – as if they needed yet another.”

The increase in deaths in South Yorkshire follows a rise in fire callouts, with crews attending some 6,403 last year, up from 5,959 in 2020.

There were 172 fire-related casualties – of those, 82 required hospital treatment.

Nationally, the number of non-fatal casualties fell by six per cent, from 6,585 to 6,201, and less than 0.5 per cent of all fires led to at least one fatality.

The Home Office said it has delivered a successful ‘Fire Kills’ campaign and is working with the National Fire Chiefs Council to keep people safe and bring forward further fire safety reform.

It has provided the NFCC with a £1.1 million grant to deliver fire prevention awareness programmes.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to fire prevention awareness to save lives.

“Every life lost to fire is a tragedy and, while they are down 12 per cent when compared with 10 years ago, we know there is more to do.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue launched a safety campaign to reduce cooking-related house fires in the county last year, after dealing with more than 230 such blazes between 2020 and 2021.

As part of the campaign, fire chiefs asked people not to cook after consuming alcohol and, instead, to get a takeaway.

“Public awareness and safety around house fires has increased dramatically in recent years but one bad habit we haven’t quite kicked, yet, is leaving cooking unattended,” said Group Manager Matt Gillatt, deputy head of the joint police and fire community safety team said last year.