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Fire Statistics Scotland, 2002

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Statistical bulletin CrJ/2004/2: Fire Statistics Scotland, 2002

3. Commentary

3.1 Total number of fires

There were 52,600 total fires (primary, secondary and chimney) in Scotland in 2002, a decrease of 11 per cent on the 59,400 fires recorded in 2001 . Around one-third (36 per cent) of all fires were primary fires, of which 63 per cent were in buildings, 30 per cent were road vehicle fires and the remaining primary fires were other outdoors fires. Just under three-fifths (59 per cent) of all fires were secondary fires and the remaining 5 per cent were chimney fires.

Since 2001, primary fires have fallen by 3 per cent to stand at 19,200 fires in 2002, and secondary fires by 15 per cent to stand at 30,900 fires in 2002. Chimney fires decreased by 28 per cent to stand at 2,500 in 2002.

Between 1993 and 2002 the total number of Scottish fires decreased by 3,500 (6 per cent), which can primarily be attributed to a 5,400 (69 per cent) decrease in the number of chimney fires. Primary fires fell by 1,300 (7 per cent) over the decade.

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3.2 Dwellings fires

Scottish dwellings fires accounted for 70 per cent (8,504 fires) of Scotland's total buildings fires. This compares with 60 per cent for England, 58 per cent for Wales and 66 per cent for Northern Ireland. In comparison to 1993 dwellings fires are down 13 per cent in 2002 and all other buildings fires are down by 14 per cent.

3.3 Outdoor fires

Over the last 10 years, outdoor fires (primary and secondary fires) in Scotland have risen by 11 per cent. The most common types of outdoor fire were refuse fires and fires in refuse containers, accounting for three fifths (60 per cent) of all outdoor fires - these represented nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of all secondary fires. In Scotland, road vehicle fires accounted for 15 per cent of total outdoor fires (including secondary fires) in 2002, the equivalent proportion for the UK as a whole was 25 per cent. In 2002 fires in road vehicles comprised 83 per cent of all primary outdoor fires in Scotland.

3.4 Secondary fires

Over the past decade total Scottish secondary fires have risen by 12 per cent. The principal categories of secondary fires that this rise can be attributed to are (i) an increase in refuse fires of 1,756 (8 per cent) and (ii) an increase in derelict vehicle fires of 1,121 (483 per cent).

3.5 Casualties from fires

In Scotland, there were a total of 77 fatal casualties in 2002 - a decrease of 19 fatal casualties, or 20 per cent, on the figures from 2001. Sixty-three fatal casualties (82 per cent) occurred in dwellings fires and 7 (9 per cent) were in road vehicles

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The principal causes of fatal casualties was being overcome by gas and smoke (46 fatal casualties). A further 13 fatal casualties were caused by burns alone, and 12 fatal casualties were caused by a combination of burns and being overcome by smoke.

The number of non-fatal casualties in Scotland in 2002 was 2,045, a decrease of 2 per cent compared with 2001. Of these non-fatal casualties; 1,759 occurred in dwellings fires (86 per cent), 184 (9 per cent) occurred in other buildings and 61 (3 per cent) occurred in road vehicles.

3.6 Casualty rates from fires

There were 15 fatal casualties per million population in Scotland in 2002. In 2002, the age group with the highest rate of fatal casualties was 1-4, with 37 per million population. The second highest rate was for the 65 - 79 age group with 31 per million population, followed by 80 and over age group with 20 per million population. There were no fatal casualties of babies aged under 1 or young people aged 11-24.

In comparison to the other UK countries, Scotland reported both the highest number of fatal casualties per million population (15 fatal casualties per million population) and the highest rate of non-fatal casualties (to those not working for fire brigades) per million population (391 non-fatal casualties per million population). The equivalent figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were 9, 10 and 12, and 256, 311 and 255 respectively. Although Scotland still has the highest rate of fatal casualties compared with the other UK countries, the decreased number of fatal casualties in 2002 brought the Scottish rate nearer to the level of the other countries. In 2001 the fatal casualty rate in Scotland was nearly double that in the rest of the UK; in 2002 the level was only around 50 per cent higher. Within Scotland the number of fatal casualties per million population was highest in Fife (34 fatal casualties per million population), Strathclyde (19 fatal casualties per million population) and Grampian (17 fatal casualties per million population). The remaining brigade areas reported fatal casualty rates which were equal to or less than the Scottish rate.

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3.7 Deliberate fires

There were 8,793 deliberate primary fires in 2002, representing 46 per cent of total primary fires in 2002 - the highest percentage of primary fires in the last 10 years. In 2002, there were 12 fatal casualties from deliberate fires and these accounted for 16 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 375 deliberate fire non-fatal casualties in 2002, accounting for 18 per cent of Scotland's total non-fatal casualties.

3.8 Accidental fires

There were 10,403 accidental primary fires in 2002 accounting for 54 per cent of total primary fires - the lowest figure and percentage of total primary fires recorded in the past 10 years. There were 65 accidental fire fatal casualties in 2002, accounting for 84 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 1,670 accidental fire non-fatal casualties in 2002 (accounting for 82 per cent of total non-fatal casualties). The pattern of accidental fires causing significantly more fatal and non-fatal casualties than deliberate fires has held throughout the decade.

3.9 Fatal casualties in dwelling fires

The 63 fatal casualties in dwelling fires represented a rate of 7 fatal casualties per 1,000 dwelling fires. This rate is now very similar to the rate in the other countries of the UK. In 2001, the Scottish rate was substantially higher than in the other UK countries. The similarity in 2002 between Scotland and the rest of the UK in the fatal casualty rate per 1,000 fires suggests that the reason for Scotland's higher overall fatal casualty rate per million population in 2002 reflected a higher risk of dwelling fires rather than a higher likelihood of a fatal casualty occurring in such fires.

3.10 Smoke alarms

In 2002, 4,112 dwellings fires (48 per cent of the total number of dwellings fires) occurred in dwellings without a smoke detector. This compares to 31 per cent (2,609 fires) of total Scottish dwellings fires which occurred in dwellings where a smoke detector was present, operated and raised the alarm. In the years since 1994, the majority of fatal casualties have occurred in dwellings fires where either the smoke detector was present but failed to operate, 21 fatal casualties (33 per cent) or in dwellings fires where a smoke detector was absent, also 21 fatal casualties (33 per cent).

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3.11 Causes of fires

The number of deliberate fires in dwellings was 1,979, or 23 per cent, of the 8,504 total Scottish dwellings fires in 2002 - the highest percentage in the last ten years. The remaining 77 per cent of total Scottish accidental dwellings fires were mainly spread across various causes such as misuse of equipment or appliances (2,360 fires - 28 per cent) and chip or fat pan fires (1,616 - 19 per cent).

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3.12 False fire alarms

In 2002, total fire false alarms in Scotland constituted 54,077 incidents, representing just over half (51 per cent) of total call outs to fires (primary, secondary and chimney) and false fire alarms.

In 2002, 31,282 false fire alarms or 58 per cent of total false fire alarms were caused due to apparatus failure. In 2002, the 7,783 malicious fire false alarms accounted for 14 per cent of total fire false alarms. Malicious false alarms have fallen annually since the peak of 22,500 incidents recorded in 1992, when they accounted for 43 per cent of total false fire alarms.

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3.13 Call out times to fires

In Scotland in 2002 the majority of call outs to all fires generally occurred from early afternoon through to late evening (approx. 3pm to midnight). Scotland's peak total fires call out occurred at around 7pm.

Dwelling fires in Scotland show a peak period between 5pm and 9pm, a similar pattern to the other countries in the UK. Callouts to outdoor fires generally occur throughout the evening and night, between 7pm and 3am.

3.14 Casualties from fires in dwellings, by time of call

In 2002, fires in dwellings were more likely to cause fatal and non-fatal casualties in the early morning (approx. midnight to 9am).

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