Falkirk service look to stamp fires out before they kill

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Nobody needs to be told how vital the work of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is to residents in the Falkirk area.

You only have to look at its quick and efficient response to last Thursday’s blaze at the sheltered housing complex in Sir John Graham Court, Larbert, and the fire which ripped through a portable cabin at Camelon Juniors FC at the weekend.

There is no doubt the service saves lives. But it is also doing its utmost to help prevent fires breaking out in the first place through a number of partnership initiatives.

Members of Falkirk Council’s scrutiny committee heard all about the work of the service in a performance report covering the period July 1 to September 30, 2013, as well as additional statistics regarding last year’s bonfire night period and the serious fire safety risks posed by smoking.

During the meeting Provost Pat Reid praised the continued good work of the fire service. He said: “Our fire service is the envy of the world in terms of its discipline and ethos.”

This commitment to safety includes educating residents through home safety visits and various awareness-raising campaigns throughout the year.

Local senior officer Gary Laing said: “Half the properties we attended still did not have a smoke detector. We want to work to ensure every home in the area has a working smoke detector.

“If there is a house fire in a street we will target neighbours with home safety visits and we also do quite a lot of community engagement with fire safety visits to schools.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service strategic plan for 2013-2016 was approved last year and, in an effort to improve the safety of communities and its personnel, the service has agreed to meet specified targets which reflect the range of activities it is now involved in.

These include reducing fire casualties by five per cent, reducing accidental dwelling fires by 10 per cent and reducing the number of injuries to firefighters.

Cooking and chip pan fires were identified as a major cause of house fires, while 9.4 per cent of domestic fires were attributed to smoking or smoking materials.

“There are 40 incidents a year related to smoking,” said the senior officer. “We are committed to working with our partners, through smoking cessation initiatives, to reduce the number of incidents where smokers’ materials have been the source of ignition.”

He added the safety message carried by Operation Alamo, a partnership between the fire service, Police Scotland, trading standards and Falkirk Council, was getting through to people, with only 29 dangerous bonfires dealt with by crews over the October 31 to November 6 period, a 41 per cent reduction from the 49 incidents which required attention in 2012.

Mr Laing said: “If the council keeps putting on its organised display then people will be less likely to start their own bonfires.”

The committee decided to look into the possibility of holding organised firework displays in other areas, including Grangemouth and Denny.

Councillor Allyson Black said: “I would like it if Grangemouth had its own display, but could we afford it?”

The fire service’s draft local plan, specifically geared to the Falkirk area, is out for consultation until February 14.