Call for urgent action after six elderly people die in a month of fires
The Health Minister has demanded extra measures to halt the unprecedented series of fire deaths among older people — following the sixth fatality in just over a month.
On Wednesday an 81-year-old woman became the latest victim of a blaze after suffering severe burns at the Owenvale Court care home in west Belfast.
Edwin Poots told the Belfast Telegraph he was “deeply concerned” at the unprecedented number of deaths among the over- 60s in the last few weeks.
“I have asked my officials to liaise with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service to look at what action might be taken to prevent such tragedies happening in the future,” he said.
Mr Poots said the Fire Service now plans to launch a media campaign specifically targeted at raising fire safety awareness among the elderly.
“I am deeply concerned at the recent, unprecedented number of fire deaths among elderly people and I send my heartfelt condolences to their friends and families,” he added.
Deputy chair of the Stormont health committee, DUP MLA Jim Wells, said he would be discussing the concerns with Mr Poots.
“It's something I would definitely raise with the minister directly — should we be doing more to help pensioners?” he said.
“The trend is becoming quite regular. It’s inevitable there will be fires but you want to minimise the risk and try and prevent injury.”
It is believed that in all the tragic cases in recent weeks, fire alarms had been installed. The Fire Service has been active in ensuring safety among the elderly, notably by providing free fire safety checks.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dale Ashford said he had never witnessed so many fatalities within one group of people during his 25 years in the job. He added the Fire Service had met with groups of older people around 20 times since the start of the year, as well as having provided leaflets and safety checks for some 200 homes.
“People can help us by availing of a free home fire safety check for their own home and also for vulnerable and elderly family, friends and neighbours,” he said.