Public sector workers and volunteers from across Shropshire have been praised for their help in reducing house fires in the county through a unique scheme developed with Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
Chief Fire Officer Paul Raymond praised a successful partnership in which home visitors and other community workers are trained to fill out home fire safety check lists which "flag up" vulnerable residents who are later visited by firefighters who fit smoke alarms where necessary.
There were no deaths in the county in the last 12 months from accidental house fires and only eight people were injured by fire, he revealed.
"That is an amazing achievement and we thank you for helping us," said Mr Raymond, who presented awards to seven county organisations commending them for their support.
In return, firefighters on home fire safety visits giving fire prevention advice and refer people to community support services where necessary.
"We are pleased to be able to support other public sector organisations as you support us. We are all public sector workers, paid by the public, who are working together for the benefit of society."
It was a "perfect" example, he said, of the new coalition Government’s "Big Society" where everyone helped each other for the common good.
"Whenever a vulnerable person is flagged up we can go in and protect them with a smoke alarm and other fire prevention measures. This means potentially a life saved and hundreds of thousands of pounds in savings on care," said Mr Raymond.
Margaret Dunn, team manager, of START Community Services, which has 95 assistants helping to re-settle people back into their own homes, said they saw the benefits of the scheme "straight away."
Fire safety checklists were filled in and actioned by firefighters where necessary as part of the "excellent" partnership working.
"We have had a lot of people helped as a result. These are worthwhile forms being filled in," said Mrs Dunn, whose organisation had completed almost 1,000 fire checklist forms.
The British Red Cross, based in Shrewsbury, whose workers help people to live at home after a stay in hospital, had filled in more than 250 forms. Other organisations commended were Shropshire Allcare, of Pontesbury; the Community Council of Shropshire; south east Shropshire Older People and Physically Disabled team based in Bridgnorth; the Falls Prevention Team, of Market Drayton; and Drayton Home Care Services.
The scheme involving community nurses, social welfare teams and council officers was introduced four years ago in which a brief fire safety checklist is filled in during a routine visit to see if the occupant needs a smoke alarm and a visit from a firefighter.
Householders are asked about working smoke alarms, the safety of kitchen appliances, wiring, smoking and if there is an escape route.
"With the help of all these other organisations, we are able to identify any householder who may be at risk and we can fit a smoke alarm free of charge and ensure they are protected from the risk of fire," said Fire Safety Officer Alison Teece.