Fire boss leads calls to stay safe during the festive season

FIRE bosses are calling on Strath-clyde residents to stay safe at Christmas.

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FIRE bosses are calling on Strathclyde residents to stay safe at Christmas
FIRE bosses are calling on Strathclyde residents to stay safe at Christmas

Chief Fire Officer Brian Sweeney launched the Strathclyde Fire & Rescue (SFR) festive campaign with a promise to cut fire deaths to zero.

Last year during the busy Christmas period there was one fire death - but Mr Sweeney said one was still too many.

He said: "During the Christmas break the number of house fires increases dramatically and it is a fact that Christmas and New Year can bring a rise in the number of fire fatalities.

"This year we want to get members of the public aware of the risk of fire and aware of their own safety and of other people around them who may be slightly more vulnerable.

"Last year we managed to get the number of fire deaths down to just one - but this year we want that number to be zero."

This year's Christmas safety campaign follows on from 2011 by using real firefighters to deliver safety messages.

Fire bosses claim the scheme is working with five fire deaths in the period December 1 to January 3, 2010 falling last year.

Figures show every fire death costs £1.5million when property loss, treatment and emergency service response are taken into account.

A spike in alcohol consumption is the main reason for the rise in accidental fires at Christmas. This can be from someone falling asleep with a lit cigarette after a few drinks, or cooking food after a night out - and the consequences can be deadly.

Mr Sweeney said SFR is working to change attitudes towards fire safety across the west of Scotland.

He said: "I joined SFR 33 years ago and in that year we had 120 fire deaths.

"This year there were eight deaths in the first nine months so clearly we are having a positive impact.

"It has been important to change people's relationship to alcohol and drinking at home to cut down on house fires and I feel we have achieved that."

SFR has teamed up with Strathclyde Police, the ambulance service and the NHS to drive home the Christmas safety message.

Chief Superintendent, George Nedley, said: "Strathclyde Police is very supportive of the message from the fire service.

"We are trying to get across to people that what we want for Christmas is to keep people safe but people need to take their part in that too.

"When you are out partying this year don't put yourself in a vulnerable position: make sure you know how you're getting home, don't drink to excess and don't go home drunk and put the chip pan on."

Mr Nedley also advised revellers to appoint a designated driver to cut down on the number of drink-driving incidents and warned one drink is one too many.

Sandra Shafii, allied health professional for dementia, is working with SFR to help train fire fighters to spot signs of dementia.

She said Christmas is the ideal time for locals to start looking out for vulnerable community members.

Sandra said: "Christmas is about goodwill to all men. People should ask themselves if they know someone in their neighbourhood that maybe is vulnerable and take that Christmas message to them as they may be even more vulnerable at this time of year.

"It's really easy to refer someone for a home fire safety visit and could make all the difference to someone on their own and in the early stages of dementia."

Derek Barron, of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, which is also working with SFR, added: "People with mental health problems could be drinking more or smoking more at this time of year and they need someone to look out for them."

SFR's Christmas 2011 campaign helped deliver a 20% reduction in casualties and house fires, and an increase in the number of Home Fire Safety Visit requests from 102 to 531.

Anyone taking advantage of a home fire safety visit will have their property fitted with a free smoke alarm, which bosses claim could save your life.

Mr Sweeney added: "They say a society can be judged by how it treats its weakest members and we want to protect our most vulnerable people over the festive season.

"We want everyone to have a really good Christmas and New Year - and for it to be safe for everyone."

catriona.stewart@ eveningtimes.co.uk

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