Services identify common factors linking fatal fires
3rd March 2014
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The report has been compiled using research data from a total of 88 deaths from 2008 to 2013.

The results show that there are seven common factors in most fire incidents resulting in death, which are one or more of the following:

  1. Mental health
  2. Poor housekeeping
  3. Alcohol
  4. Smoking
  5. Drugs (prescription or illegal)
  6. Limited mobility
  7. Living alone


Station Manager Andy Justice, Fire Investigation Manager for Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, who co-ordinated the research, said: “The facts show that accidental fires in the home affect those most vulnerable and all too often are already known to other agencies.

“All the agencies involved have to work even more closely together to identify and then help those most at risk from dying in a fire.”

In half of the cases researched, more than one of the factors was present, while in an additional 30%, one factor was present.

The most common factor was that the victim lived alone, which was identified in 47 of the 88 cases (53%).

HM Coroner Ian Arrow, who endorsed the research work, said: “The identification of the seven factors in home fire deaths will prove invaluable in identifying high risk individuals, who would benefit from inter-agency intervention.”

The research work was undertaken by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) South West Fire Investigation Group.

The research also identified the following facts:

  • Over 60% of female victims were aged over 65, compared to just 36% of male victims
  • The average age of a male victim was 56 years compared to 68 years for a female victim
  • Smokers’ materials were the most common source of ignition, which resulted in 20 fatalities throughout the region
  • In 61 of the 88 fatal cases (69%), a smoke detector was either not present or failed to raise the alarm
  • Of the 88 cases examined in the study, at least 29 were known to other agencies.

Station Manager Justice added: “Fire and rescue services can visit the homes of vulnerable people to provide advice and appropriate equipment to reduce the risk of fire.

“We would urge organisations which work with people affected by any of the seven factors identified to contact their local fire and rescue service to find out how we can help.” 

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