Decrease in number of deliberate fires started

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The number of deliberately started fires in the Western Isles requiring a fire and rescue service attendance has dropped according to figures published this week by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

The figures were contained within Local Senior Officer Billy Wilson’s first quarter (2014/15) report to the local scrutiny committee, which met in Stornoway earlier this week.

Deliberate fire numbers dropped from five during the first quarter of 2013/14 to none during the first quarter in 2014/15.

Fire fatalities in the Western Isles remain low with none reported during the first quarter of 2014/15. In fact there have been just two fatalities as a result of fire since April 2010.

LSO Billy Wilson said: “Clearly it is pleasing to report a reduction in the number of deliberate fires on the Western Isles, which I believe is in part due to the ongoing prevention and protection work being carried out by our team, coupled with ongoing youth engagement.

“It is also pleasing to note that there have been no fatalities as a result of fire during the first quarter of the year, but we must not be complacent and continue to deliver our free Home Fire Safety Visits to as many households as possible.”

LSO Wilson said the slight shortfall against the target set for Home Fire Safety Visits (HFSV) during the first quarter of 2014/15 doesn’t tell the whole story. The target was 75 for the first quarter and 64 visits were carried out.

He said: “Where the figures would indicate there is a shortfall in the reporting quarters’ aspiration in number terms (there are undoubtedly periodic and seasonal variations which we are confident will be balanced out over the year) there has clearly been a drive by the Community Safety Advocate to identify high risk visits and programme those as a priority. The target set was 41% of visits to be carried out to be high risk and 48% were in this category.”

A change to the system of recording and prioritising visits was introduced in 2013/14 and this system has been refined nationally, with a greater emphasis on risk prioritising.

LSO Wilson added: “The new system results in a more qualitative approach to the planning and delivery of HFSVs.”

The number of accidental house fires increased slightly with two reported in 2013/14 and four during the first quarter this year.

SFRS has also been working with land owners and land managers to try and reduce the number of wildfire incidents. There have been an excessive number of wildfires across the Western Isles over the past year.

LSO Wilson said: “The majority of these incidents have been the result of controlled burning which have become too large to control.

“From the start of May until the end of July we attended ten notable wildfires, as well as several more routine rubbish/vegetation fires.

“A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service wildfire working group was set up last year and we expect it to work closely with land owners and land manager and the Western Isles Rural Fire Prevention Group to reduce wildfires on the islands.”