STAFFORDSHIRE has had its safest year in the county Fire and Rescue Service’s history, with the lowest number of accidental house fires.
But too many people are still “playing Russian roulette” with their lives by not fitting smoke alarms in their homes, the county’s chief officer has warned.
Figures for 2013/14 show a total of 550 accidental house fires, a drop of approximately 100 from figures just four years ago.
But Chief Fire Officer Peter Dartford warned there was still work to be done, as there had been an increase in house fire injuries, despite falling numbers of fires.
"We are extremely pleased to have seen a further drop in the number of accidental house fires,” Mr Dartford said. “But there remains plenty more work to be done, particularly as we have seen an increase in the number of injuries.
“We remain absolutely committed to driving down the levels of fire casualties year on year. However as the numbers are small, the statistics are fragile and can be skewed by one or two incidents involving multiple casualties.
A working group of officers and fire authority members is looking into the increase in casualties to see what lessons can be learned, with the aim of reducing fire injuries.
"We also need the people of Staffordshire to consider their own safety and well-being,” Mr Dartford added.
“In over a third of the accidental house fires we attended people did not have working smoke alarms.
“This is one of the reasons for the injuries – there was no early warning. People who do not have working smoke alarms are quite simply playing Russian roulette with their lives.”
The cause of the majority of house fires was cooking.
“The victims of the fires we go to are often surprised as to how quickly their food has overheated and set on fire, which is why we stress to people to never leave cooking unattended,” Mr Dartford said. “Another big contributing factor is alcohol – trying to cook when you’re drunk is a recipe for disaster."
Other figures reported at the Fire and Rescue Authority were for secondary fires including grass fires. There was a marked increase in the number of grass fires for 2013/14 in comparison to 2012/13. However it is difficult to compare the two years, due to 2012 being the wettest summer in 100 years, which had a major impact on the number of grass fires.