A campaign has been launched by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to help the county’s “vulnerable” people who are most at risk from fire breaking out in their homes.
A total of five Vulnerable Person’s Officers (VPO) will visit homes across the county to carry out fire risk assessments to reduce the potential danger.
But they are appealing to the people of Shropshire to help identify those most at risk in their neighbourhoods.
Former firefighter Sam Hamer, responsible for home visits in west Shropshire, said: “We already have excellent links with the caring services but we want neighbours, friends and family to be the eyes and ears. They know when someone is at risk.
“They may be elderly, living alone and infirm. But it is also all ages. People who are suffering from drink or drugs or those with no social contacts. Tell us who they are and we will visit them to see if we can help.”
Sam (61) has worked in the brigade’s Community Fire Safety department for nine years since retiring as a firefighter with 30 years service. As with many people who work in the emergency services he has witnessed at first hand the death of people after a 999 callout.
“It is generally the elderly who are alone, perhaps living in just one room who sometimes leave the cooker on all day for heat or are left huddled by a fire, use candles to keep the electric bills down and eat biscuits instead of a proper meal because they can’t get to the shops. These are the scenarios that we see time and time again.
“We know that these very vulnerable people are out there in Shropshire and we want to find them and maybe stop someone dying or being injured in a fire. But we need people to tell us who these people are and hopefully we can help them to live a better quality of life.”
Fire officers carry out a home visit to check for “the alarm bells” of no smoke alarm, dangerous heating, overloaded plugs, frayed wiring, and other potential fire hazards.
“Once we make a visit to a vulnerable person we can fit smoke alarms and give advice on fire safety and sometimes we alert the care agencies who can then step in to help where necessary.”
In one recent incident, a vulnerable elderly man who lived alone in Shropshire and fell victim to a fraudster was happily rehomed in sheltered housing after a home visit from community fire safety officers.
Another pensioner who lived alone was helped after they discovered he was too infirm to go out and could not buy food.
Sam also gives talks to new firefighter recruits about the importance of community fire safety.
“Every person they save, or don’t save, as a firefighter it lives with you for the rest of your life. You never know how many lives you save with community fire safety but you will save more lives than by fighting fires.”
If you know of someone who could benefit from a home fire safety visit call Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service now on 01743 260200 or visit www.shropshirefire.gov.uk for more information on fire safety. You can also follow the fire service on facebook and twitter.