Fire safety visits hit in bid to save cash

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Universal home fire safety checks are being scrapped in a bid to save cash, according to union bosses.

In the past, fire crews had visited every household in Lancashire which has asked for a visit, giving fire safety messages, escape route advice and fitting a free smoke alarm.

But, from this week, anyone requesting a free check will be asked questions, with only those with a high risk being visited. Those with a lower risk will be sent fire safety advice through the post or an email.

Kevin Deacon, Fire Brigades Union chairman, said: “It is a reorganisation, but it’s a cut to the service there’s no doubt about it.”
He said, as a result of the latest review, there would be 17 job losses through “natural wastage”, as part of the government’s austerity measures.

Mr Deacon said: “We believe in a fully-funded fire service, for the safety not only of the public but of our members.

“The home fire safety checks have reduced fires occurring, there’s no doubt about that, but as a direct consequence of that, the government then believes that if there are fewer fire calls they don’t need the fire service.”

A spokesman said the changes were in part to make savings, but also “to focus the service where it’s most needed”.

Project manager for the changes, group manager Simon Bone, says: “The change makes sure that we prioritise and target our resources towards those most at risk to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the service.

“Fire crews and community fire safety advocates will now spend more time with those people who most need our help, while others who are more able to help themselves continue to be offered the advice they might need to make necessary changes. We are confident the assessment questions to determine risk and vulnerability will effectively identify those people that we should be offering visits to.”

Over the last seven years, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service has fitted more than 300,000 smoke alarms in homes across the county.

However, despite the high number of alarms being fitted, bosses say Lancashire’s casualty rate is no better than many other fire and rescue services.