Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s most senior community safety officer in the Highlands and Islands is urging residents to enjoy a safe and secure festive season.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) continues its call to action as it works to protect communities across the country and prevent fire tragedies over the festive season.
As people celebrate Christmas they are being urged to recognise the risks, take action to stop house fires and avoid the deaths, injuries and trauma they cause.
Group Manager John MacDonald, responsible for prevention and protection across Highlands and Islands said: “Our national campaign ‘Join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire’ continues and we are appealing to the public to help us save lives this Christmas.
“More house fires happen in December and January than at any other time of year and we need everyone to be aware of the increased risk at this time of year.
“There were 10 deaths and almost 280 injuries during 2012-13 across Scotland which were suspected to be linked to impairment through alcohol or drugs.
“We often see a rise in these types of incidents during the festive season and we know combining alcohol with cooking is a dangerous mix.”
Across Scotland, 600 people were injured in around 3,000 cooking related house fires in 2012-13, while over the past four years, 60 per cent of all accidental house fires have involved cooking.
The experience of SFRS crews who have responded to accidental house fires is being put front and centre as the service arms the public with knowledge of how they can stay safe from fire this winter.
Adverts on television, radio and in newspapers feature serving firefighters sharing their memories of attending serious house fires, as SFRS drives home a powerful message to drive down the number of fires and casualties.
Group Manager MacDonald continued: “As a firefighter I have seen first-hand the tragedies which can result from accidents involving everyday items like cooking appliances.
“Many fires where someone has been killed, seriously injured or left with potentially life-long emotional trauma could have been prevented if simple steps had been taken.
“The fact is that fire can take hold in an instant and flames, toxic smoke and heat can quickly engulf a home to threaten the lives of everyone inside.
“Cooking appliances must never be left unattended while they are in use and anyone who is cooking while under the influence of alcohol must be aware of the risk and take extreme care.
“When fire does start having an early warning is often the difference between life and death, so it is essential that every home be protected by working smoke alarms.”
Public awareness of fire risks has undoubtedly increased and more properties than ever are now protected by working smoke alarms.
While this has reduced the number of house fires and the deaths and injuries they cause, SFRS is determined to make the Highlands and Islands even safer and is eager for members of the public to continue to play their part.
Having identified its partnership with the public as key to preventing house fires and cutting the number of injuries and deaths, SFRS officers are clear on the important role played by residents of every community across the country.
John MacDonald said: “Fire can strike anywhere – we all need to accept it can happen to us and act to keep ourselves and those around us safe.
“Firefighters will always respond to emergencies with courage and professionalism, but we know there are incidents where the only way to prevent tragedy would have been to prevent the fire starting in the first place.
“That’s why crews across the Highlands and Islands continue to carry out free Home Fire Safety Visits; helping residents reduce the risk of fire starting and raise the chance of escaping if it does.
“We need the public’s help to reach everyone who may be at increased risk of experiencing a fire within their home.”
He added: “Anyone who keeps an eye on a vulnerable relative, friend or neighbour can make a real difference – potentially saving their life – by putting them in contact with us.
“Our message is clear – be an active citizen, help us save lives, make that call and join Scotland’s Fight Against Fire from here in the Highlands and Islands this Christmas.”
Anyone can arrange a free home fire safety visit by calling the SFRS Freephone number 0800 0731 999 or by contacting their local fire station.
To help spread that vital message to everyone it serves, SFRS will share specific safety tips in a ’12 Days of Christmas’ campaign on Twitter and Facebook.
Members of the public will be able to see these messages by following the official SFRS Twitter accounts:
@scotfire_north, @scotfire_west and @scotfire_east, and the official SFRS Facebook page.
More festive and winter safety advice is available on the SFRS website: www.firescotland.gov.uk.