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Common factors in fatal fires identified

By WMNAGreenwood  |  Posted: March 03, 2014

Common factors in fatal fires identified
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Seven factors that link most home fire deaths in the South West have been identified by analysis of fatalities over the last five years.

Fire services in the region joined forces to compile the research from data on almost 90 deaths in the South West from 2008 to 2013.

The results show there are seven common factors – mental health, poor housekeeping, alcohol, smoking, drugs, limited mobility and living alone – in most fire incidents which result in a fatality.

Station manager Andy Justice, fire investigation manager for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, who coordinated the research, said: “The facts show that accidental fires in the home affect those most vulnerable and all too often are already known to other agencies.

“All the agencies involved have to work even more closely together to identify and then help those most at risk from dying in a fire.”

He added: “Fire and rescue services can visit the homes of vulnerable people to provide advice and appropriate equipment to reduce the risk of fire.

“We would urge organisations which work with people affected by any of the seven factors identified to contact their local fire and rescue service to find out how we can help.”

The research work was undertaken by the Chief Fire Officers Association South West Fire Investigation Group.

The report was compiled using research data from 88 accidental fatal fires between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2013.

In half of the cases, more than one of the factors was present, while in 30%, one factor was present. The most common factor was that the victim lived alone, which was identified in 47 of the 88 cases (53%).

The research also identified that more than 60% of female victims were aged over 65, compared to just 36% of male victims. The average age of a male victim was 56 years compared to 68 years for women.

Cigarettes and other smokers’ materials were the most common source of ignition, which resulted in 20 fatalities across the region.

In 61 of the 88 fatal cases (69%), a smoke detector was either not present or failed to raise the alarm. Of the 88 cases examined in the study, at least 29 were known to other agencies.

The cost to society of each fire death is estimated at more than £1.65 million.

Torbay coroner Ian Arrow, who endorsed the research work, said: “The identification of the seven factors in home fire deaths will prove invaluable in identifying high risk individuals, who would benefit from inter-agency intervention.”

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