Seven-in-eight fatal fires linked to no smoke alarm
SMOKE alarms were not fitted or working in seven out of eight homes where fatal fires occurred.
Fire chiefs last night issued a stark warning over the dangers of failing to fit or upkeep basic safety devices in houses.
There were viable smoke detectors in just one in eight of the homes of the fatal blazes attended by fire brigade crews, according to provisional fire statistics for 2008.
Richard Hedderman, assistant chief fire officer with Dublin Fire Brigade, warned that without a smoke alarm a fire can "grow and grow" as the house is unprotected at night-time when everyone is asleep.
"In a lot of fatal fires, alcohol is involved one way or another. People are in a deeper sleep, then the fire uses up the oxygen and they don't wake up," he said. "They either die from lack of oxygen or as a result of burning."
For less than €30, a family can get a ionisation smoke alarm with a 10-year battery, which will detect invisible particles from a fire while it is still small, he added.
The fire chief said two of the most deadly blazes they encounter are open chip pan fires, which grow out of control swiftly, and people turning cooking appliances on after returning from the pub.
Fire crews were called out to more than 31,000 blazes -- with 35 fires proving fatal, according to the 2008 provisional fire service statistics from the Environment Department.
Gardai launched investigations after a number of the fatal blazes were deemed to be suspicious or the cause of the fire was uncertain.
Most fatal fires are domestic and generally occur on the weekend and late at night, Mr Hedderman said.
In 60pc of the cases, the crews could find no sign of any smoke alarm. But in one in five cases, extensive damage meant they were unable to determine if such a device was present.
In a further 4pc of fatal call-outs, it was not known if the alarm had been working, while in a similar number of cases it was present but not working.
The annual Fire Safety Week will take place this October in conjunction with the Northern Ireland fire service, to raise awareness of the measures which can help save lives.
More than €1.13m has been spent on the community smoke alarm scheme, launched to target the estimated 20pc of households with no fire alarms, with a further €180,000 ring-fenced to provide devices in around 5,000 households for it this year.
Hot ashes and soot from chimneys were blamed for more than 4,000 blazes, while a further 3,400 were malicious. Cigarettes, electrical equipment, and cooking and heating appliances also featured highly as fire triggers.
Most blazes were domestic house fires, while outdoor rubbish burning resulted in more than 7,600 call-outs and fires in vehicles accounted for 6,000.
Almost 60pc of the fatal fires occurred during the night, while winter and spring proved the most perilous.