Over-50s and those living alone most at risk from house fires
The age group deemed most at risk from accidental house fires in Northern Ireland has been lowered to aged 50 and older.
The NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) revealed that in the last three years, 19 people lost their lives in accidental house fires, with 17 (89.5%) of them aged over 50.
Nine people who died were aged 50 to 59 and a further eight were aged 60 and over, prompting NIFRS to lower its 'people at risk' age definition by 10 years.
Figures also revealed there have been 2,529 accidental dwelling fires in the past three years, with almost 90% of fatalities involving people who lived alone.
The reduction in age, coupled with other risk factors, will enable NIFRS, working in conjunction with more than 80 other agencies across the voluntary and statutory sectors, to target fire safety resources where they are needed most.
The aim is to reduce the number of accidental house fires and resulting injuries and deaths.
The change in the age group to the 'people at risk' definition is being officially announced today.
The event will also explore what else can be done to better help protect the community.
Assistant Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Alan Walmsley said that while fire safety is important for everyone, the fact that there are people who because of their age and circumstances are at higher risk can't be ignored.
"The reality is if you are aged 50 or older you are more at risk from a house fire," he said.
"It's a stark statistic that over the last three years, 89.5% of those who have died in accidental house fires were within this age group. Almost 90% of these were people living alone.
"With an aging population and a greater emphasis on supporting people to live independently at home, we need to make sure that our fire safety preventative measures are targeted at people most at risk from fire.
"Three years ago we launched our 'people at risk' strategy and collaborative working underpinned our approach in helping us reach and target those in our community who needed our help the most.
"Since then firefighters have completed 13,117 free home fire safety checks right across Northern Ireland, prioritised towards those most at risk in our community.
"Some 33% of these (4,392) were generated directly from a referral from a partnership agency and this is testament to the success of these mutually beneficial relations across the statutory, voluntary and community sectors.
"I'm confident that this approach has undoubtedly helped save lives within Northern Ireland and enhanced the well-being of so many who fall into our 'at risk' category."