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Firefighters called to more than 230,000 false alarms in the last year – figures

Firefighters were called out to 576,040 incidents to the year ending in March, according to the annual figures.

Firefighters dealing with a blaze at a block of flats in Barking, east London (PA)
Firefighters dealing with a blaze at a block of flats in Barking, east London (PA)

By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent

Forty percent of all incidents firefighters were called to in the last year were false alarms while there was a “significant” rise in the number of blazes , official figures show.

Fire and rescue services in England attended 231,067 fire false alarms in 2018/19 – 5,042 more than the previous year – marking a 2% increase (226,025), statistics released by the Home Office on Thursday said.

Firefighters were called out to a total of 576,040 incidents for the 12 months ending in March, according to the annual figures.

This was a 2% increase compared with the previous year (566,433) and a 9% rise compared with five years ago.

Fires accounted for 32% of the legitimate call-outs – while the remaining 28% were incidents like car crashes, floods and medical emergencies.

There were 182,825 fires attended – a 9% increase compared with 167,330 in the previous year.

But the number of fire-related deaths fell by 25% to 253.

More of the fires attended were in high-rise blocks of flats of 10 storeys or higher – a 3% increase on the previous year.

The number of primary fires – in buildings, vehicles or outdoors involving a fatality, casualty or where five or more crews were called – had fallen slightly, but still accounted for 40% of the fires attended (73,214).

There was a 19% hike in the number of secondary fires – outdoor blazes where people and property were not in danger with more occurring in hotter weather.

Road traffic collisions was the largest type of non-fire incident firefighters were called to – up 3% in the last year to 31,086.

The number of medical emergencies and flooding call-outs had reduced.

But there was a 10% rise in firefighters being called to help out other authorities.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) raised concerns about the “significant” rise in the number of fires recorded and the strain false alarms were putting on resources.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “False alarms, including malicious alarms, use up resources which could be better served elsewhere, and increase response times to actual emergencies.

“But it is always better to be safe than sorry, and fire services should always be called when any alarm is raised.

“The latest government figures confirm what firefighters are feeling on the ground, they are under increasing pressure, responding to more incidents with scarcer resources, as budgets and firefighter numbers continue to be cut.

“Shamefully, firefighters are being thanked for their efforts this year with yet another real-terms pay cut.

“We are deeply concerned that, after massive cuts to fire safety officers and years of fire safety deregulation, there has been a significant increase in fires in England.

“This makes it more crucial still that false alarms are treated seriously.

“The Westminster government has been utterly complacent about fire safety for years and it is clearly taking its toll.

“We urgently need to invest in fire and rescue services and to radically boost firefighter recruitment – people’s lives, homes, businesses, and communities are at stake.”

PA

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