Cuts could hit fall in fire deaths

Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney
Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney
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A fire chief fears more funding cuts could threaten improvement in the number of deaths and injuries from blazes in South Yorkshire.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said new figures showed hoax calls and primary arson incidents, such as house and car fires, had fallen to record low levels.

Total calls to the fire service are down by 23 per cent – also a record low.

But Chief Fire Officer Jamie Courtney warned that levels of fire cover across the county need to be maintained.

The force will have its budget reduced by £9.5m between 2011 and 2015 and the service is expecting further reductions.

Mr Courtney said: “These figures represent another excellent year’s work from our firefighters, community safety teams and partner agencies, and we will strive to continue these improvements but this level of performance is undoubtedly threatened by Government cuts to our budget.

“We know from our own statistics that fires typically rise during periods of economic hardship, and so any reduction in fire cover brought about by further funding cuts will make our job of keeping people safe much more difficult.”

The figures are included in a performance report to go before South Yorkshire Fire Authority on Monday, June 24.

They show the total number of calls received has fallen from 38,029 in 2011-12 to 29,425 in 2012-2013, a reduction of 23 per cent.

Deaths and injuries in accidental house fires were down by 26 per cent, from 58 to 43.

Small arson fires, such as grass, bin and rubbish, dropped by more than half from 5,079 to a record low figure of 2,266.

The total number of accidental house fires was 626, up from 618 the previous year.

Fire chiefs said this had still been reduced by almost 40 per cent in 10 years.