Older people who live alone in rural areas of Shropshire are most at risk of having a house fire, says Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.
The kitchen is the room where most fires break out and smoke alarms are key to alerting householders to the danger.
New annual figures reveal that there were 231 fires in the county in 2017/18, up seven on the previous 12 months, but the “worrying” statistic is that 90 incidents, almost 40 per cent, were in homes occupied by elderly people living alone in rural areas, says Prevention Manager Rabinder Dhami.
The fire and rescue service carries out home fire safety visits for vulnerable people and works with councils and care agencies to help those in need. Firefighters test smoke alarms, talk about how to escape a fire, and check for fire hazards in the home such as overloaded plug sockets, fraying wires and clothes drying on heaters.
“People living alone in rural areas have the highest risk of a fire breaking out in their home. We do run numerous safety campaigns and urge families and neighbours to keep an eye out for the elderly. See that they are OK and test their smoke alarm, and yours, each week. It can save a life.”
Firefighters and support staff regularly work with schoolchildren to raise their awareness about keeping safe.
“100 per cent of Shropshire children know about smoke alarms now. That is progress compared with 15 years ago, when many didn’t know about them,” says Rabinder.
Bridgnorth had the highest number of house fires per population in 2017/18 with 18 recorded. In Telford, there were 91, Shrewsbury (39), Oswestry (19) and Newport (5).
Out of the 231 Shropshire fires, 132 were in the kitchen, 15 in the living room and 13 in a bedroom. 171 fires were first detected by a smoke alarm, up 31 on the previous 12 months. Midday to 8pm are the hours when most fires break out.
Firefighters also dealt with vehicle fires, rescued people from road collisions, carried out animal rescues, fires in chimneys, bins and in the countryside, false alarms, and a variety of emergencies such as rescuing a small child accidentally locked in their home alone.
Shropshire firefighters work out of 23 fire stations, with the majority being “on call” which means they turn out to 999 calls often in the middle of the night to protect their local communities while going to their workplace as normal the next day. Wholetime firefighters are on duty in Telford, Wellington and Shrewsbury, where the fire risk is higher among larger populations.