Firefighters attended hundreds more fires in Devon and Somerset last year, new figures reveal

Fire engine

Fire engine - Credit: Archant

Devon and Somerset firefighters attended hundreds more fires last year compared to the year before, figures reveal.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has warned that services are under pressure, and voiced concern that 'massive cuts' have led to a significant increase in fires across England.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 4,639 fires in 2018-19, Home Office figures show.

This is an increase of 12 per cent compared to the previous 12 months, when 4,127 were reported.

And, there were 11 fire-related fatalities and 325 non-fatal casualties last year.

The data has been released at a time where a major consultation is underway and could result in a number of fire stations closed across the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service area. Read Fire stations at risk of closure in major shake-up here.

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The new figures reveal the overall number of callouts in Devon and Somerset fell significantly, however, largely due to a sharp decrease in the number of non-fire incidents, such as road traffic accidents.

Across England, fire and rescue services attended almost 183,000 fires in 2018-19, a rise of nine per cent on the previous year.

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The FBU accused the Government of being 'utterly complacent about fire safety for years' and said firefighters were responding to more incidents with fewer resources.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: "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.

"We have warned of the impact of climate change on fire for the last decade, but the Government has failed to listen.

"We urgently need to invest in fire and rescue services and radically boost firefighter recruitment. People's lives, homes, businesses, and communities are at stake."

The FBU said that funding for English fire and rescue services will fall by £155million in 2019-20, representing a real-terms cut of 15 per cent since 2016-17.

The union said firefighter numbers have fallen by a fifth over the last decade, and the number of specialist safety officers has been cut by a quarter.

Kate Lee, shadow minister for fire services, said the latest figures show the Government's policy is 'based on a complete falsehood'.

She said: "Previously, they have attempted to justify cuts to the numbers of firefighters and fire stations on the grounds that callouts and fires were declining, but numbers have been rising for years.

"Yet the Tories have continued to cut the fire service, and seem to have learned nothing from the Grenfell tragedy.

"You can't have safety and security on the cheap."

Across England, 253 people were killed in fires in 2018-19, compared with 339 the previous year - which included 70 deaths due to the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Home Office attributed the increase in fires to the hot summer in 2018.

A spokesperson said: "We are grateful for the continued tireless efforts of firefighters across the country."

Read more on the subject below:

Read 'Dangerous' fire cuts will 'compromise public safety', says union here.

Read Fire safety proposals could have bigger impact on Sidmouth says station commander here.

Read East Devon MP wades in on fire consultation proposals here.

Read 'Fire stations are in the wrong place' claims assistant chief fire officer at Topsham drop in event here. Read Crunch meeting for fire service to discuss cuts to services here.

Read Calls for Exmouth Fire Station to retain its 24/seven staffing status here.

Read Fire station closure consultation: List of public exhibitions here.

Read "There are difficult decisions that need to be made" - fire chief's warning as controversial service cuts plan put to public consultation here.

Read Colyton protests over fire station closure threat here.

Read Strike action possible if fire station closures go ahead here.

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