Call for smoke alarm legislation after six fire deaths since Christmas


A FIRE union boss has called for the Scottish Government to introduce legislation stating that all homes should have a working smoke alarm and says that all new builds should be fitted with a sprinkler system.

The call comes after six people died in fires across Scotland since Christmas.

Roddy Robertson, executive council member for the Fire Brigades Union Scotland, said:  “If we could get some form of legislation through the Parliament for smoke alarms and sprinklers it would go a long way.

“We have an abysmal record in Scotland, we are two times more likely to die in a fire than the rest of the UK. We have to do something about it to turn things around. We would welcome some form of stronger guidance from government.

“It might be more difficult to legislate for private housing but that’s not to say that we can’t legislate for new builds.

“The government are moving on the safe cigarettes that self extinguish. We are campaigning for domestic sprinklers and not just smoke alarms.

“We can’t understand why there is not a bigger uptake of smoke alarms. There is no real excuse for people not to get fire safety visits.”

In some areas nearly half of household fires are occurring in homes without a working alarm.

In Lothian and Borders around 42% of fires took place in 2009-2010 in dwelling places without an alarm with the total figure standing at 533 out of 1284 fires taking place.

Fife Fire Service recorded a total of 120 fires taking place in homes without a fire alarm which is around 39% of the total number of dwelling fires.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue could not give concrete figures and said that sometimes smoke alarm information was not recorded.

Out of 4532 fires in 2009, 2406 were recorded as having a fire alarm. This leaves a possible 47% of fires which took place in buildings without a smoke alarm.

In the Highlands and Islands 45 fires took place in a domestic property without a smoke alarm in 2009 – 2010.

Dumfries and Galloway Fire Service said in the past five years there have been 693 dwelling fires of which 166 (just under 24%) had no alarm fitted and 89 had an alarm fitted which did not operate.

Tayside Fire Service said 116 fires occurred in 2009-2010 without a smoke alarm.

Central Scotland Fire and Rescue Service could not confirm how many fires have taken place in premises without a fire alarm due to a change in the way that they record data and Grampian Fire and Rescue did not hold the information.

It is thought that 79-year-old Berit Mountain, who died after her home in Argyll Park Terrace in Edinburgh caught fire shortly after 5.30pm Monday, did not have a smoke alarm.

She was treated by paramedics at the scene before being taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

She was transferred to the burns unit of St John’s Hospital in Livingston where she died.

Neighbour Richard Scott Robinson said that he could not hear any smoke alarm.

David Lockhart, community safety manager for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue, said that it looked like Mrs Mountain probably didn’t have a smoke alarm but because damage inside was so bad, fire fighters  not been able to properly look.

He added: “To have a working smoke alarm is the most important thing you can do to protect you and your family from fire and obviously this month we have seen six fatal fires. Fires do kill people.

“We would like to be in the situation that everyone has a working smoke alarm and it’s tested every week.

“The fire service will fit it for free and for 2011 if we could ask people to do one thing it would be to have a smoke alarm fitted.”

A further five fire deaths have taken place across the country since Christmas including 68-year-old Edward Combe who died on Tuesday in a fire at his bungalow in Luss in Argyll and Bute.

On Monday a 45-year-old man was found dead in a fire at a flat in Boghead Avenue in Dumbarton and on Sunday a man died following a blaze in a flat in Muiryhall Street, Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, at around 1am.

A 53-year-old woman died on New Year’s Day after a fire in a first-floor flat in Johnstone, Renfrewshire.

Last Monday, December 27, an elderly man died in a fire in a ground floor flat in Bangorshill Street, Thornliebank, East Renfrewshire.

A spokesman for Strathclyde Fire and Rescue said: “Strathclyde Fire and Rescue has been working hard to press home the fire safety message and in December alone we carried out 700 home fire safety visits.

“We would urge all householders who haven’t had a home fire safety visit to contact their local fire station or fire service and to make sure that their homes have working smoke alarms.”

Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service have installed 15,448 smoke alarms in 2009-2010.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue recorded 12,299 smoke alarms were installed in 2009 rising from 8970 in 2008.

In Fife 4840 fire safety visits were carried out in 2009-10 and 387 fire alarms installed by Grampian Fire and Rescue Service in the same year.

According to Dumfries and Galloway, ten smoke alarms have been fitted with direct link to Fire Headquarters in the past five years.

In Central Scotland, 953 smoke alarms were installed in 2010 and in the Highlands and Islands, 3067 smoke detectors were fitted in the period 2009-10.