A REPORT compiled by the South West Fire Investigation Group has identified seven factors linking most home fire deaths in the region.
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service (DFRS) took part in the study, which was undertaken by the Chief Fire Officers Association using data from 88 deaths between 2008 to 2013.
DFRS group manager and fire investigation manager Andy Fox said: “The facts show that accidental fires in the home affect those most vulnerable and all too often these people are already known to other agencies.
“All the agencies involved have to work much more closely together to identify and then help those most at risk from dying in a fire.”
The report highlights the most common factors in accidental house fires as the following:
- Mental health;
- Poor housekeeping;
- Drugs (both prescription or illegal);
- Limited mobility;
- Living alone.
Last summer, Tesco home delivery driver John Applebee, aged 68, died after a fire at his Poole home.
Fire investigation officers confirmed the blaze started in the kitchen and Bournemouth Coroners Court later heard the house had been in an unkempt state because Mr Applebee was a hoarder.
In half of the cases researched for the report more than one of the seven factors was present, while in an additional 30 per cent, at least one factor was present.
The findings also highlight that more than 60 per cent of female victims were aged 65 or above, compared to just 36 per cent of male victims in the same age group.
Smoking materials were the most common source of accidental fatal house fires, resulting in 20 fatalities across the region.
Worryingly, in 61 of the 88 fatal cases, a smoke detector was either not present or failed to raise the alarm.
Susan Mary Allen, aged 54, died following a Swanage house fire in November 2008.
At the subsequent inquest into her death the coroner heard evidence that the fire ‘was almost certainly started by discarded smoking materials’.
Mr Fox said: “Dorset Fire and Rescue Service can visit the homes of vulnerable people to provide advice and appropriate equipment to reduce the risk of fire. These visits are called free home safety checks.
“We would urge organisations which work with people affected by any of the seven factors identified, to contact DFRS to find out how we can help.”