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12% increase in the number of fires in Surrey

12% increase in the number of fires in Surrey

Published by Helen Down at 6:52pm 13th August 2019.

The Fire Brigades Union has warned that services are under pressure, and voiced concern that "massive cuts" have led to a significant increase in fires across England.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service was called out to 2,667 fires in 2018-19, Home Office figures show.

That's an increase of 12% compared to the previous 12 months, when 2,374 were reported.

The overall number of callouts in Surrey fell, however, largely due to a sharp decrease in the number of non-fire incidents, such as road traffic accidents.

Across England, fire and rescue services attended almost 183,000 fires in 2018-19, a rise of 9% on the previous year.

Chiddingfold fire doctor's surgery
Chiddingfold doctor's surgery destroyed by a blaze in January

The FBU accused the Government of being "utterly complacent about fire safety for years", and said firefighters were responding to more incidents with fewer resources.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: 

"Shamefully, firefighters are being thanked for their efforts this year with yet another real-terms pay cut.

"We are deeply concerned that, after massive cuts to fire safety officers and years of fire safety deregulation, there has been a significant increase in fires in England.

"We have warned of the impact of climate change on fire for the last decade, but the Government has failed to listen.

"We urgently need to invest in fire and rescue services and radically boost firefighter recruitment. People's lives, homes, businesses, and communities are at stake."

The FBU said that funding for English fire and rescue services will fall by £155 million in 2019-20, representing a real-terms cut of 15% since 2016-17.

The union said firefighter numbers have fallen by a fifth over the last decade, and the number of specialist safety officers has been cut by a quarter.

Kate Lee, shadow minister for fire services, said the latest figures show the Government's policy is "based on a complete falsehood".  She said:

"Previously, they have attempted to justify cuts to the numbers of firefighters and fire stations on the grounds that callouts and fires were declining, but numbers have been rising for years.

"Yet the Tories have continued to cut the fire service, and seem to have learned nothing from the Grenfell tragedy. 

"You can't have safety and security on the cheap."

In Surrey, there were four fire-related fatalities and 153 non-fatal casualties last year.

Across England, 253 people were killed in fires in 2018-19, compared with 339 the previous year - which included 70 deaths due to the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Home Office attributed the increase in fires to the hot summer in 2018.  A spokesperson said:

"We are grateful for the continued tireless efforts of firefighters across the country."