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Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is urging households across Northern Ireland to stay Fire Safe and Winter Ready during the festive period and winter months. The warning follows the recent deaths of three people, all aged over 50 and living alone, in separate house fires during November.
The risk of accidental house fires increases in winter as extra fire hazards are introduced into the home. In the last 2 years, 8 of the 13 accidental house fire deaths (62%) occurred during the winter months. Firefighters responded to 638 accidental house fires representing 37% of all accidental house fires attended over the 2 year period.
NIFRS is appealing for people to be vigilant about fire safety at this time of year and to look out for older family and friends – in particular those living alone in our community.
Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Prevention & Protection explains:
“The winter period, coupled with the festivities, is traditionally a high- risk time of year for accidental house fires. We see the number of fires in the home increase due to extra fire hazards such as candles, fairy lights, portable heaters, overloaded sockets and people using fires that have not been lit for some time.
“In the last 5 weeks (1 November – 6 December) Firefighters have attended 71 accidental house fires across Northern Ireland. Only last week in Larne, Firefighters were called to an accidental fire in the living room of a home caused by Christmas decorations being placed in close proximity to a gas fire.
“Tragically across one week in November, three people sadly lost their lives in separate house fires in Omagh, Belfast and Toomebridge. Our thoughts and sympathies continue to be with the three families and local communities suffering the devastating impact of these fires.
“Each of the people who died were over 50 and living alone and we continue to be particularly concerned about the fire safety of people living alone at this time of year. The statistics show that these people are more vulnerable to a fire in their home. Our Firefighters continue to be out on the ground engaging with at-risk people and through our partnerships, with other voluntary and statutory organisations, we continue to make huge strides in reaching those people who need our help most.
“During these colder months it’s more crucial than ever that people check in with their older family and friends and those who are isolated in our community. Please consider their wellbeing and ensure they have a working smoke alarm. Check their home for Christmas fire hazards and advise them of steps they can take to help ‘STOP’ fire in their home. If you are worried about the fire safety of someone in your community you can find out more fire safety advice or register them for a free Home Fire Safety Check by visiting our website www.nifrs.org.
“We continue at this time of year to respond to a wide range of emergencies and are well-prepared and well-rehearsed in terms of our contingency planning for any severe weather conditions that we may encounter over the next couple of weeks. I am encouraging everyone to also think about their own personal preparedness for the challenges that winter weather can bring. I would also appeal to drivers to take extra care while driving as winter weather, combined with the dark evenings and the Christmas rush, heightens the dangers on our roads.
“We want you to enjoy yourselves and be Fire Safe and Winter Ready over the coming weeks by following our safety advice and ensuring you are prepared for winter. Thank you for not only helping us as a Fire & Rescue Service but for helping to protect you and your family from a range of fire and other emergencies at this time.
“Happy Christmas and stay safe in 2019.”