East Lothian fire chief urges homeowners to reach out for safety support and guidance

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Local Senior Officer Steve Gourlay issued the appeal as statistics reveal an increase in accidental house fires in East Lothian.

The Fire Chief for East Lothian has called on the community to seek support from firefighters to stay safe following an increase in accidental dwelling fires.

Between April 2017 and March this year, the number of accidental fires in the home rose from 52 to 68 - with 50 per cent linked to cooking.

And those over the age of 65 are most at risk, according to latest figures. 

Firefighters have carried out a total of 1060 home fire safety visits and fitted more than 1000 free smoke alarms between April and March.

And longer-term projections show that East Lothian still remains below the national average for accidental house fires.

Members of the East Lothian Police, Fire and Community Safety Committee recently approved the SFRS’s Community Fire and Rescue Plan for the area.

But the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's Local Senior Officer for East Lothian, Midlothian and the Scottish Borders, Stephen Gourlay, said there is no room for complacency.

He is now calling on residents to get in contact and arrange a free Home Fire Safety Visit - and also appealed to the community to highlight any vulnerable friends, neighbours or relatives needing support to stay safe. 

LSO Gourlay said: “We have looked at the intelligence and it is telling us that cooking has played a significant part in the majority of accidental house fires.

“Our firefighters stand ready to assist and are committed to taking a community-driven approach, working with homeowners to identify risks within their home.

"I would like to appeal to everyone to tap into this support and, in particular, to make us aware of those vulnerable members of our community who might need assistance to stay safe. 

"Let me be very clear - we are trained and equipped to fight fire but we don't want to because we stand on the frontline and we see the full devastation. 

“There is no doubt that the best fire I have ever fought was the one I prevented from happening in the first place."

Meanwhile, firefighters have attended more than 500 unwanted fire alarm signals between April 2017 and March this year.

UFAS incidents occur when firefighters are called to an incident as a result of equipment failure, malicious false alarms or false alarms with good intent.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is committed to working with businesses and duty holders and, where appropriate, improving management arrangements within premises to reduce the number of unwanted fire alarm signals.

More than ninety per cent of unwanted fire alarms responded to by crews between April and March were due to either equipment failure or human error.

During the past five years, UFAS call-outs have represented almost one third of operational activity in East Lothian.

Working to reduce that figure is a key priority for LSO Gourlay.

He said: “Education and partnership working can assist our efforts to reduce these unwanted and unnecessary occurrences.

“Ensuring that businesses and duty holders manage their fire alarm systems effectively can also help us reduce the number of unwanted fire alarm signals.

“We remain absolutely committed to driving down these figures.”

Deliberate fire-setting has also seen a fifty per cent increase in East Lothian over the past five years.

 The experienced firefighter said: “There is often a close link between deliberate fire-setting and antisocial behaviour.

 “This has the potential to risk life, cause injury, damage property, impact upon the environment and affect the local economy. It will not be tolerated and we will continue to work in partnership with the Police to take appropriate action. 

 "However, we also believe that education is key and we continue to work closely with the community to raise awareness of the dangers and the very real consequences."

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