Surrey FBU rally credit Jess Hurd

Number of fire fatalities on the rise in Surrey

The number of fire fatalities is on the rise in Surrey, the Fire Brigades Union has learned.

Home Office statistics released on 14 November show that Surrey has seen the steepest rise in fire deaths in over a decade, with the number of fire-related fatalities rising from one to nine over the course of June 2018 to June 2019.

Staffing shortages in Surrey have left fire engines unavailable to respond to emergency calls on numerous occasions over the last year, contributing to slower response times as crews often have to travel from nearby counties.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is facing further cuts, including cutting 70 firefighter posts and removing seven fire engines at night, which were approved by Surrey County Council at a cabinet meeting on 24 September.

Surrey’s Chief Fire Officer told Surrey County Council at the meeting that carrying out more preventative work will reduce the number of dwelling fires, despite evidence that existing fire prevention work has had little impact on fires in homes. The Home Office statistics show that eight of the deaths from June 2018 to June 2019 were caused by fires in the home.

Lee Belsten, Surrey FBU brigade secretary, said:

“The rise in the number of fire deaths flies in the face of everything Surrey’s chief fire officer and Surrey County councillors have been telling the public. Surrey Fire and Service is already struggling to protect the public, and further cuts to fire cover won’t help to improve the service.

“It’s unbelievable that Surrey County Council can claim that the service is able to reduce any increased risk through prevention alone, while slashing emergency response. It’s no coincidence that the number of home fire deaths has risen at a time when response times have slowed due to staffing shortages.

“Every councillor who voted in favour of the cuts should take a look at these figures and think twice about their decision.”

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