Fire deaths concern

The number of fire deaths in Kerry last year matched the toll in Dublin despite an eight-fold difference in population, it emerged today.

The number of fire deaths in Kerry last year matched the toll in Dublin despite an eight-fold difference in population, it emerged today.

Six people lost their lives lost in each of the counties.

The National Safety Council’s provisional figures show that 37 people people died in fires last year, the same figure as in 2003.

Its spokesman Brian Farrell said he welcomed the fact that fire deaths had decreased from the highs of 51 in 2002 and 63 in 2001.

There was also a significant fall in fire deaths in Dublin from 23 in 2001 to six last year.

But Mr Farrell said there was concern about blackspots such as Kerry.

“We work on the premise that one fire death is one too many, especially when it could be prevented with a working smoke alarm,” he said.

There was one death during the month of December, when Helen Quinn, a mother of seven lost her life in a house fire in Mullingar, Co Westmeath.

Ten counties had no fire deaths for the year. This included four counties in Leinster – Carlow, Wicklow, Laois and Meath – who had no fire deaths for the third year in a row.

Although the smoking ban, which was introduced last March, was expected to lead to an increase in cigarette smoking at home, there was no resultant rise in fire deaths.

However, Mr Farrell said there was a need to be vigilant.

“There are definitely still increased risks associated with the ban and it would be remiss of us not to warn of them.”

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) said it welcomed the the reduction in fire deaths over the past two years.

“Certainly people are getting more aware of the need to have a smoke alarm and to maintain it,” said secretary Dave Carroll.

He added that it was also significant that every new house was now legally obliged to have a fire alarm fitted to the mains supply.

However, Mr Carroll said there was still a need for a community fire service approach to reduce fire deaths.

“Most of the fire deaths tend to occur in private houses so it is about education. We spend a lot of our time as fire officers dealing with hotels, pubs and restaurants. But there’s no statutory basis for us to inspect individuals’ homes.”

The implementation of a community fire service approach across the 37 fire authorities is expected to be a key aim of the National Fire Authority. Former Environment Minister Martin Cullen promised this body would be established by his department at the CFOA’s annual conference in Wexford last year.

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