Staffordshire's Chief Fire Officer, Peter Dartford has expressed his shock and dismay at the tragic start to the New Year experienced in Staffordshire.
On New Years Day an elderly lady died in a house fire in Stafford, whilst another elderly lady remains in a serious condition in hospital following a fire at her home in Meir, Stoke-on-Trent.
"Elderly people are more vulnerable to fire because they are often less mobile."
Peter Dartford, Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service
The incidents were two of seven house fires Staffordshire firefighters attended on new Years Day.
Crews were called to the first incident on South Street, Stafford shortly after 9.30am on New Years Day.
On arrival they were faced with a terraced property on fire. One woman was found on the first floor, in a converted living room showing no life signs.
The room was severely damaged by fire and a hole, approximately two metres in size, had burnt through the floorboards. Investigations into the cause of the fire are still ongoing, however the most probable cause is a convector fan heater that caught alight to some bedding.
Firefighters were sent to the second incident on Macdonald Crescent, Meir shortly after 5pm on the same day.
On arrival at the incident the fire was already out, however an elderly lady had suffered 60 per cent burns to her lower body.
The lady remains in a serious but stable condition in Selly Oak Hospital. #
A fire investigation has established that the lady's clothes had caught fire when she had stood too close to an open flame gas fire.
This incident comes nearly a year to a day that a similar incident occurred - on New Years Eve 2008. 94 year old Gwendoline Faulkner from Cheddleton in the Staffordshire Moorlands died when her clothes caught fire as she tended to an open fire in her home.
Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Peter Dartford said: "In both these incidents it appears that those involved were obviously trying to keep warm during the cold snap we’re experiencing. We’d urge people to take extra care when using portable heaters and open or gas fires by not getting too close to them and by keeping flammable materials, such as clothes a safe distance away.
"It has been a tragic start to the New Year and we just hope that we don’t have a repeat of this time last year, when we had four fire deaths involving elderly people in just four weeks. We remain committed to doing all we can to reduce the risk of fire to the most vulnerable in our communities, although we need the help of the public to identify those who would benefit from our proactive, life saving services and to let us know.
"Elderly people are more vulnerable to fire because they are often less mobile and therefore find it difficult to get out of their property quickly. We are currently running a campaign called “Young at Heart, Safe at Home” which aims to raise awareness of fire safety amongst the elderly and those who care for them.
"By booking an elderly person a free home fire risk check we can ensure the likelihood of a fire occurring in their home is reduced. We’re eager for relatives, friends and neighbours of elderly people, particularly those who live alone, to make contact with us on 0800 0241 999 so we can arrange to visit them – if we don’t know about these people we can't help them. So let one of your New Year resolutions be to save an elderly relative, friend or neighbours life by booking them a free home fire risk check!"
A home fire risk check involves Firefighters or a Service Technician visiting your home to give fire safety advice and fitting equipment such as smoke alarms to ensure you are safer in your home. The FREEPHONE number to ring to request a check is 0800 0241 999 and on ringing you will be able to arrange a mutually convenient time for the visit to take place. All Firefighters and Service Technicians carry an I.D card and will travel in Service vehicles. Although checks to the elderly and vulnerable are prioritised, the service is open to everyone.