County praised for fire safety

Fire Authority chairman Stuart West

Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority has been praised by an independent watchdog for making the county one of the safest in the UK with fires at a record low.

Property fires are down, arson is "greatly reducing," businesses are safer with blazes also down and car fires cut, said the report from the Audit Commission's Oneplace which gives an independent overview of public services.

"The fire and rescue authority is helping to make Shropshire safer," said the report out today (Dec 9th) which added that the authority "understands its community well" and provides good value for money.

Congratulating Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service on its achievement, Chairman of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority Councillor Stuart West said: "The Fire Authority and I are extremely pleased with the Commission's findings which reinforce the marvellous efforts undertaken by firefighters and staff."

He said it was a "resounding success story" over the past ten years with the fire service successfully reducing fire deaths and injuries by almost 60 per cent and house fires by 45 per cent.

The report also praised the fire service for good work in road casualty reduction particularly for a strong campaign to improve safety by raising awareness among Shropshire's motorcyclists.

There was strong partnership work with other community organisations including firefighters fitting door chains to elderly people's homes to reduce the fear of crime. An innovative scheme in which home and welfare visitors, including fire crews, reported concerns to the correct source for help, was helping the community, said the report.

Fire crews had helped vulnerable people more at risk from fire and their partnership work with police and councils was also helping to reduce anti social behaviour. Their youth education in schools was praised.

A third of Shropshire's 200,000 homes have had fire safety checks carried out by firefighters - a free service available to everyone.

Firefighters attended 6,730 incidents in 2008/09 and property fires fell in the last year from 1,029 to 994, accidental house fires rose slightly from 225 to 273, but with 153 out on arrival. Where fires had occurred, only 12 fires spread beyond the room of origin. And deliberate arson on cars was cut from 219 to 188. Business fires are down from 192 to 179.

"The fire authority focuses on doing what local people want and provides high quality services at medium cost," added the report which focussed on just one "key weakness" in its lack of success in recruiting women firefighters – despite numerous publicity campaigns launched by the fire service in Shropshire.

9th December, 2009