Agenda item

Fire Home Safety Update

(i)   Report of the Corporate Director of Resources.

(ii)  Presentation by Keith Carruthers, County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.


The Committee considered a report of the Corporate Director of Resources which provided background information in advance of a presentation from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service (CDDFRS) on home fire safety (for copy see file of minutes).


The presentation delivered by Keith Carruthers, Director Community Risk Management, CDDFRS provided members with an overview of community fire safety activity with a focus on home fire safety visits.


Councillor Boyes indicated that the fire service was the most trusted of the blue light services and residents were forthcoming in providing the information as part of the visits, the problem was sharing the information with the right agencies. He commented that now that information was being shared which was a fantastic development, it was pleasing to note that the number of accidental fires was reducing.


Councillor Nicholls referred to smokers and medical equipment and asked what they were doing to keep smokers safe who may or may not have medical equipment at home. He then asked if the fire brigade were at a stage of visiting homes in affluent areas given that they had completed visits in poorer areas.


The Director Community Risk Management responded that they worked closely with oxygen suppliers and received monthly information to show which residents had a supply of oxygen and they would visit the home. This work was about education and if residents did smoke how to do it safely and night-time smoking was the riskiest behaviour. If you live alone and are smoking, there is only the one person to address any behaviours but if more than one person were in the house you could hear a smoke alarm or ensure that the cigarette was distinguished. They relied on occupiers letting them into properties and indicated that vulnerable residents presented the greatest challenge especially properties where hoarding was evident. With regard to affluent areas, less targeting happens to these properties as the risk was greater in more deprived areas. He indicated that you could go onto their website and request a home visit, and they relied on partners to refer them for a visit.


Councillor Quinn commented on the dip during COVID for the number of accidental dwelling fires and Home Fire Safety Visits and indicated that other services had a plateau. This was testament to the Fire Service that you went straight back up to normal levels and asked how big of a problem was hoarding becoming in the County, if there had been an increase since COVID and commented that Councillors could help identify these properties.


The Director Community Risk Management responded that hoarding had increased and indicated that there had been three fatalities this year which may be coincidental. He stated that hoarding was typically due to mental wellbeing and referred to a recent incident at Darlington and indicated that it was more difficult when people owned their own home but if the home was rented, they could get the landlord involved. He stated that it was difficult to engage if the person did not want to.


Councillor Miller commented that it was good to hear that Durham was one of the best with regard to accidental dwelling fires and that residents had the trust of the Fire Service. He then referred to Durham being one of the worst in the country with regard to deliberate fires and asked by how much and asked why this was the case.


The Director Community Risk Management responded that in terms of the North East the three fires services that had the worst figures for deliberate fires were Cleveland, Tyne & Wear and Durham and Darlington based on the size of the population. It was suggested that there were some societal links and work was being conducted by Northumbria University to understand why people were deliberating starting fires. He commented that some deliberate fires were linked to crime as fire could be used as a weapon, but some fires were younger people who were starting fires as the start of anti-social behaviour and potentially move to crime.


Councillor Nicholls referred to deliberate fires and asked the officer if he could see this changing in terms of getting better.


The Director Community Risk Management indicated that deliberate fires were their biggest challenge and was a demand on resources. Their ethos was taking the education approach and going into schools to provide education and they have employed an education co-ordinator to improve the offer to schools, particular in hot spot areas. They were currently trialling a PCC funded scheme on Developing Resilience but indicated that a number of deliberate fires were due to peer pressure, fires were higher in hot weather. They were hoping that the education journey with young people would reduce deliberate fires.


Councillor Charlton referred to her personal experience with home fire safety visits and could not praise the team highly enough and wished to pass on her thanks to the team. She referred to the fuel crisis and asked if the team had seen an increase with vulnerable people using portable heaters and increase in risk.


The Director Community Risk Management responded that they had seen an increase in the use of portable heaters, but it was not a massive increase. He indicated that the use of oil filled radiators was as safe as radiators in a home the issues were with a naked flame heater and uncontrollable heat. The advice would be to get the right type of portable heater.


Councillor Charlton asked if they would be extending the training to care companies where carers go into people’s homes.


The Director Community Risk Management responded that they would offer training free of charge to anyone who was entering people’s homes. He commented that they were in someone’s home for 30 minutes, but a carer would be in the home every day and there was more chance of the dangers being put right.


The Chair asked if the impact of emerging technology such as electric vehicles would cause any issues.


The Director Community Risk Management indicated that technology was tried and tested, the issues were buying electronic products from unreputable manufacturers.


Resolved: That the information contained in the report and presentation be noted.

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