The fire service is calling on public bodies and health partners to do more to help prevent needless deaths, after revealing more than 50 people have died in house fires in South Yorkshire since 2011.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says that although it now attends fewer house fires than at any time in its history, the number of people dying in serious blazes has stubbornly refused to decline. That's because many of the people who die are not always known to the fire service, which prevents firefighters and safety officers putting things in place to stop fires.
Fire chiefs have launched the 'Fire Safe Together' campaign to help tackle the problem, calling on GPs, social care teams, drug and alcohol services and other partners to work with them to identify those most at risk.
Head of prevention and protection Steve Helps, said:
"There are some common factors involved in almost all of our recent fire deaths, such as hoarding, loneliness, substance misuse and mental health issues. Often, those who died were already known to at least one agency, whether it's a landlord, doctor's surgery, council or social care team. Sadly, in most cases, they were not known to us.
"If we had known about them, we could have done something to help. We could have prevented another needless death. We might have kept someone's loved one alive."
Since 2011, 53 people have died in house fires in South Yorkshire. Nearly three quarters (71%) of those deaths occurred in house fires which started accidentally.
Many of those who died (61%) were older people aged 50 or over, with fire service investigations finding that issues such as hoarding, drugs, alcohol and mental health problems frequently contributing to the fires starting. Half of those who died lived on their own.
The fire service says the best way for partners to help is to sign-up to become a 'Safe and Well' partner. This is a scheme which aims to improve how the fire service and local organisations work together to effectively identify and reduce hazards for people most at risk.
Common measures to protect those most at risk include fitting smoke alarms, providing flame retardant bedding and installing misting systems to suppress fires.
For more information about the scheme and to ask about your organisation signing up to become a partner, visit http://www.syfire.gov.uk/safety-advice/safe-well/