Monday 22 January 2018

No smoke alarm in five out of six fatal-fire homes

Paul Melia

FIVE out of six homes where a fatal fire occurs do not have a working smoke alarm.

Even though the alarms can be bought for just €20, new figures show that householders are still not getting the message that installing the alarms can save lives.

A study of 330 house fires in which 379 people died between 2000 and 2009 shows that just 57 of the blazes were in homes where a working smoke alarm was fitted.

Last year, 35 people died in house fires and hundreds more suffered serious injuries from burns and smoke inhalation.

The survey also shows that injuries among firefighters have dramatically increased in recent years, with 358 officers injured on duty and 76 'near misses' -- a 16pc increase between 2008 and 2009.

In addition, it found that 13 commercial premises, including bars and night clubs, were shut down in 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, because they posed an unacceptable fire risk.

It also shows:

•Response times vary between each local authority, with fires in rural counties taking longer to reach. Some 91pc of all fires are attended to within 10 minutes in Cork city, compared to 30pc in Cavan.

•Charges imposed by fire services vary widely. Fees are not charged in Dublin, Monaghan and Cork but Cavan and Donegal charge €100 for a chimney fire, Galway and Kildare charge €200, while North Tipperary charges €366.

•In Kilkenny, the charge for all fires is €70 per fire fighter per hour.

Dublin firefighter and SIPTU representative Brian Murphy said yesterday that checking the batteries was an important step: "A lot of people would install smoke detectors but the maintenance is another thing. Where they are installed also has a bearing."

Most household insurance policies included cover to call out the fire brigade, he added, saying that local authorities could help fund the service by charging insurance companies to attend the scene.

The study, carried out for the Department of the Environment, found that the death rate is less than ten per million of the population, half of what it was in 1981, and that National Fire Safety Week, held every year, is helping reduce deaths.

Irish Independent

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