More fire-related deaths in West Midlands last year

More lives were lost to fires in West Midlands in 2021, new figures show.

Firefighters at the scene of the gas explosion in Runcorn, Cheshire, which left four people badly burned.
Firefighters at the scene of the gas explosion in Runcorn, Cheshire, which left four people badly burned.

More lives were lost to fires in West Midlands in 2021, new figures show.

The Fire Brigade Union branded a 27% increase in fire fatalities across England as "terrifying" and urged the Government to stem cuts to firefighting services.

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Home Office statistics show 19 people died as a result of fires attended by the West Midlands Fire Service last year – up from 14 the year prior and 16 in 2019.

Fire fatalities in West Midlands peaked in 2011, when 28 lives were lost.

Nationally, there were 280 fire fatalities in 2021 – the highest number since 2017, when the Grenfell Tower disaster occurred, subsequently claiming 72 lives.

There were 98 deaths between October and December, the most recorded for the period since 2008.

The Home Office cautioned that numbers can fluctuate between quarters, but added that it will monitor the situation for any ongoing trends.

A spokesperson said annual deaths remained down on historic figures, having fallen by 12% compared to 2011.

The FBU called the rising number of deaths an "utter tragedy" but said that it is not surprising, given Government cuts to firefighting services over the last decade.

Branding Westminster responsible, Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: "The Government has cut around 11,000 firefighters since 2010 and response times have lengthened.

"This should serve as a real wake-up call – as if they needed yet another."

The increase in deaths in West Midlands comes despite a fall in fire callouts, with crews attending some 8,647 last year, down from 9,575 in 2020.

There were 598 fire-related casualties – of those, 102 required hospital treatment.

Nationally, the number of non-fatal casualties fell by 6%, from 6,585 to 6,201, and less than 0.5% of all fires led to at least one fatality.

The Home Office said it has delivered a successful "Fire Kills" campaign and is working with the National Fire Chiefs Council to keep people safe and bring forward further fire safety reform.

It has provided the NFCC with a £1.1 million grant to deliver fire prevention awareness programmes.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are committed to fire prevention awareness to save lives.

"Every life lost to fire is a tragedy and, while they are down 12% when compared with 10 years ago, we know there is more to do."