THE number of people dying in fire-related incidents in England has seen its biggest percentage increase in 20 years, data published by the Home Office show.
Three hundred and three people died in fires in 2015-16, a 15% increase on the previous 12 months. Fire services in Cambridgeshire and Cumbria had the highest fatality rates.
The figures show that in 2015-16 fire services across England attended around 162,000 fires – an increase of 7,000 from the previous year. From these incidents, fire services recorded 303 fire-related fatalities, which is 39 more than in the previous 12 months.
The number of people dying in fires across England had been steadily falling over the past three decades, with the number of fire-related fatalities being 22% lower than in 2005-06.
There are wide geographical variations in the fatality rate for primary fires, which are classed as being the most serious kind. Last year, the fire and rescue services in Cambridgeshire and Cumbria had the highest fatality rates with 25 deaths occurring for every 1,000 primary fires.
In comparison, the England average was seven deaths per 1,000 fires. Cambridgeshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Secretary Cameron Matthews told News Line: ‘These statistics are heartbreaking for the people of Cambridgeshire.
‘These figures are a result of the fire service and firefighters being cut not just in Cambridgeshire but across the country. In 2010-2014 we had the joint biggest cut as a percentage in the UK. We were cut by £4.3m from a budget of £32m.
‘We lost 40 whole-time firefighters out of 200, five officers and 33 support staff out of 150. We’re calling not only for an end to the cuts but are in desperate need of investment in the fire service. We’ve got to the point where cuts are costing lives. We need an end to this failed policy of austerity.’
Data compiled by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2015 showed that the number of firefighters across England had fallen by 14.7% over the previous decade whilst fire service response times had also risen over the past six years.