Fire chiefs call for closer working with EHOs

Senior fire officers are calling for closer collaboration with EHOs to stem a shocking five-year increase in fires in sheltered accommodation housing the elderly vulnerable.

Speaking at this month’s Year Ahead conference in Stratford-on-Avon, Mark Andrews from the Chief Fire Officers Association said that while most fires are on the decrease, fires in the specialised housing sector including sheltered housing are on the rise.

Quoting London statistics he pointed to a 50 per cent rise in fires in this sector over a five year period with 250 fires recorded over 2009/2010 rising to 374 fires between 2014 and 2015. He told delegates: ‘On a monthly basis there are fire fatalities in this sector making it a high priority.’

He added that often people living in sheltered accommodation were heavy smokers and so more at risk from fire but they came to the attention of the fire service after it was too late.

He warned it was of particular concern that people living in sheltered housing were known to both voluntary and regulatory services and yet when it comes to fire they are falling through a regulatory loophole.

‘Fire safety orders do not apply to those buildings so we have no regulatory capacity to do anything about it. We have to rely on home fire safety to get us beyond the front door. There is no definition of these buildings and increasingly we are getting some very, very serious fires occurring,’ said Mr Andrews.

Delegates heard that fire prevention is a top priority for fire fighters and that, once alerted by regulatory services to a vulnerable individual, action would be taken to reduce their risk.

A fire risk matrix is also available for those regularly visiting social housing to assess a likelihood of fire on a red, amber or green basis. The fire service, with stakeholders including the CIEH, is drafting a new specialised housing fire safety guide.

Mr Andrews also called for an opening up of the primary authority relationship between the fire sector and social landlords to include EHOs. ‘At the moment we are not getting it quite right. We have a primary authority relationship between fire service and social landlords but I would like to engage other sectors in that discussion about doing regulation better and smarter.’


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