Protecting Dumfries and Galloway

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Residents' support vital as the area's Scottish Fire and Rescue Service team works to prevent emergencies

LSO Alan Fairbairn

DEDICATED firefighters are working to protect Dumfries and Galloway and they want the public’s help to prevent tragedies.

Efforts to reach vulnerable people and help them stay safe are paying off according to the latest figures from the area’s Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) team.

The three months from April to the end of June saw a significant fall in the number of accidental house fires.

Crews across Dumfries and Galloway responded to 18 of the emergencies during the period, down from the 25 such incidents in the same part of 2015.

Area Manager Alan Fairbairn, the local senior officer, welcomed the 28 per cent drop but was clear firefighters need everyone to understand the danger and do their bit to make tragedies less likely.

He explained: “Many of our most vulnerable citizens are older people who live alone.

“Where they have carers or other support agencies calling on them, the strong partnerships that are in place allow potential issues to be identified and mean we can get the person the support they need to stay safe.”

While there were no fire-related deaths or injuries in the three month period, the local senior officer is adamant no-one can be complacent about fire safety.

Mr Fairbairn continued: “The fact no-one was hurt by fire in the most recent period is obviously good news, but I want people to remember that over the previous two years six lives were lost and 52 people were injured.

“Every death through fire is a tragedy and, even where no-one is killed, the physical and psychological trauma can devastate lives.

“The prevention of any fatality or casualty will always be our priority and that’s why we’re committed to working with our partners to co-ordinate safety activities and make them ever-more effective.

“Sadly those who need help most are often the least likely to ask for it.

“That’s why it’s also vital the public help by putting us in touch with anyone who could be at increased risk.”

Whenever a fire has struck a home, the occupants and their neighbours are offered free home fire safety visits to make it less likely they will experience another emergency.

A visit can be arranged by calling SFRS on the freephone number 0800 073 1999, by texting ‘FIRE’ to 80800 or by filling in an online form at www.firescotland.gov.uk.

These are delivered by firefighters acting on referrals from the public and from SFRS’s fellow members of the Community Safety Partnership.

The same approach sees firefighters work with their partners to protect Dumfries and Galloway from other emergencies.

In the three months to the end of June crews responded to 19 incidents on the region’s roads, down seven from the 26 recorded during the same period the year before.

Despite the significant 28 per cent fall in the number of collisions, they left five people trapped in vehicles and in need of rescue by firefighters. Tragically, one person was killed.

Mr Fairbairn said: “Through the Road Safety Partnership we analyse data and better understand the collisions that happen in Dumfries and Galloway, whether they are on the motorway, trunk or minor roads.

“Together with our colleagues in other agencies we then target efforts to reduce the incidents that happen.

“Everything we do is about protecting the public and by working together we are able to more effectively engage with those who are at higher risk of being involved in a serious collision.”

“The ‘Safe Drive Stay Alive’ programme is a great example”, he added. “It brings together firefighters, paramedics, police officers and healthcare professionals to make sure young people are aware of the dangers.

“By sharing their personal memories of dealing with the aftermath of horrific incidents, these emergency responders help new drivers and their passengers think about safety.”

Partnership working also plays a key role in the handling of deliberately set-fires.

Between April and June Dumfries and Galloway saw 11 deliberate fires involving property, vehicles and street furniture, as well as 43 incidents involving rubbish, grass or other outdoor spaces.

It represents a significant rise from the nine involving property and the 23 other such incidents in the same period of 2015.

SFRS and police officers work together to establish any trends and a 16-year-old youth was charged with starting four fires in the Gretna area.

Mr Fairbairn commented: “Although the number of deliberate fires in Dumfries and Galloway is very low compared to the rest of Scotland they are still a serious issue.

“Deliberate fires cause extensive damage and there is a zero-tolerance approach to this reckless, criminal behaviour.

“We work with all our partners in the region to engage with local communities on this issue and our dedicated community safety officers will also continue to operate closely with their police colleagues to conduct intervention work.

“No-one should ever accept deliberate fire-setting happening in their community and anyone with information on those responsible should share it with the police.”

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