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Statistical Bulletin CrJ/2006/2: Fire Statistics Scotland, 2004

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3. Commentary

3.1 Total number of fires

There were 46,900 total fires (primary, secondary and chimney fires) in Scotland in 2004, a decrease of 28 per cent on the 65,600 fires recorded in 2003. Around one third (34 per cent) were primary fires, of which 67 per cent were in buildings, 26 per cent were road vehicle fires and the remainder other outdoor fires. Secondary fires accounted for 63 per cent of all fires, compared with 69 per cent in 2003.

Compared to 2003, primary fires fell by 12 per cent to stand at 15,800, and secondary fires fell by 35 per cent to stand at 29,500. Chimney fires fell by 24 per cent between 2003 and 2004 to 1,700 (4 per cent of all fires compared with 3 per cent in 2003).

Between 1995 and 2004 the total number of Scottish fires decreased by 7,900 (14 per cent). Primary fires fell by 2,800 (21 per cent) over the decade, while chimney fires decreased by 3,900 (71 per cent).

Chart 2 - Fires 1,2 by location, Scotland, 1995-2004

Chart 2 - Fires by location, Scotland, 1995-2004

Notes
1 Including late call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.
2 Figures are based on sample data weighted to the brigade totals.
3 Data for 1995 excludes some "late" call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.
4 Includes estimates for incidents occuring during ten days of industrial action in November 2002.
5 Includes estimates for incidents occurring during industrial action in January and February 2003.

3.2 Dwellings fires

Scottish dwellings fires accounted for 70 per cent (7,420 fires) of Scotland's total buildings fires in 2004. This compares with 60 per cent for England, 57 per cent for Wales and 64 per cent for Northern Ireland. In comparison to 1995 dwellings fires are down by 8 per cent and all other buildings fires are down by 12 per cent.

3.3 Outdoor fires

Over the last 10 years, outdoor fires (primary and secondary) have decreased by 16 per cent The most common types of outdoors fires in 2004 were refuse fires (including fires in refuse containers), accounting for 58 per cent of all outdoors fires, and grassland fires, accounting for 19 per cent of all outdoors fires. Primary fires accounted for 15 per cent of outdoors fires. The most common types of primary outdoor fire in Scotland are road vehicles fires (4,165, or 81 per cent of all primary outdoor fires in Scotland in 2004), followed by fires in outdoor machinery and equipment (273, or 5 per cent of the total).

Over the last 10 years, primary outdoor fires in Scotland have fallen by 14 per cent, while total secondary fires have fallen by 17 per cent. The principal categories of secondary fires that this fall can be attributed to are (i) a decrease in grassland fires of 3,839 (37 per cent), (ii) a decrease in refuse fires of 1,169 (5 per cent) and (iii) a decrease in single tree/ outdoor structure fires of 706 (52 per cent).

3.4 Casualties from fires

In Scotland, there were a total of 99 fatal casualties in 2004 - an increase of 19 fatal casualties, or 24 per cent, on the figures from 2003. This total includes 14 deaths from a fire in a nursing home in North Lanarkshire in January 2004. Seventy-six fatal casualties (77 per cent) occurred in dwellings fires and 17 (17 per cent) were in other buildings.

Chart 3 - Fatal casualties from fires by cause of death 1, Scotland, 2004

Chart 3 - Fatal casualties from fires by cause of death, Scotland, 2004

Notes:
1 Chart shows main injuries only, priority being given to 'burns' and being 'overcome by gas or smoke'. However, if both these injuries occur, they are shown as a seperate category.

The principal cause of fatal casualties was being overcome by gas and smoke (76 fatal casualties, or 77 per cent). A further 10 (10 per cent) fatal casualties were caused by burns alone, and 8 (8 per cent) fatal casualties were caused by a combination of burns and being overcome by smoke.

The number of non-fatal casualties in Scotland in 2004 was 1,858, a decrease of 1 per cent compared with 2003. Of these non-fatal casualties, 1,637 occurred in dwellings fires (88 per cent), 120 (6 per cent) occurred in other buildings and 57(3 per cent) occurred in road vehicles.

3.5 Casualty rates from fires

There were 19 fatal casualties per million population in Scotland in 2004. In that year, the age group with the highest rate of fatal casualties was 80 and over, with 97 per million population. The second highest rate was for the 65-79 age group with 34 per million population, followed by the 30-59 age group with 18 per million population. There were no fatal casualties of children between 1 and 4 years of age.

In comparison to the other UK countries, Scotland reported both the highest number of fatal casualties per million population (19 fatal casualties per million population) and the highest rate of non-fatal casualties (to those not working for fire brigades) per million population (360 non-fatal casualties per million population). The equivalent figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were 7, 8 and 8, and 222, 277 and 240 respectively. Within Scotland the number of fatal casualties per million population was highest in Highlands and Islands (39 fatal casualties per million population), followed by Strathclyde (26 fatal casualties per million population) and Dumfries & Galloway (20 fatal casualties per million population). The remaining brigade areas reported fatal casualty rates which were less than the Scottish rate.

Chart 4 - Fatal casualties per million population, UK, 2003-2004

Chart 4 - Fatal casualties per million population, UK, 2003-2004

Notes:
1 Includes estimates for incidents occuring during industrial action in January and February 2003.

3.6 Deliberate fires

There were 6,532 deliberate primary fires, representing 41 per cent of total primary fires in 2004 - the second successive year showing a decrease in the percentage of primary fires. In 2004, there were 4 fatal casualties from deliberate fires, accounting for 4 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 373 deliberate fire non-fatal casualties in 2004, accounting for 20 per cent of Scotland's total non-fatal casualties.

3.7 Accidental fires

There were 9,264 accidental primary fires in 2004 accounting for 59 per cent of total primary fires. There were 95 accidental fire fatal casualties in 2004, accounting for 96 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 1,485 accidental fire non-fatal casualties in 2004, accounting for 80 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.

3.8 Fatal casualties in dwelling fires

The 76 fatal casualties in dwelling fires in 2004 represented a rate of 10 fatal casualties per 1,000 dwelling fires. This rate is somewhat higher than the rate in the other countries of the UK. However, the fatal casualty rate per thousand fires in Scotland is more similar to the rest of the UK than the fatal casualty rate per million, suggesting that the reason for Scotland's higher overall fatal casualty rate per million population in 2004 reflected a higher risk of dwelling fires rather than a higher likelihood of a fatal casualty occurring in such fires.

For fatal casualties in accidental dwellings fires, the main source of ignition, where specified, is smokers' materials and matches (44 per cent) followed by cooking appliances (26 per cent), mainly involving chip pan fires, and space heaters or candles (6 per cent each).

3.9 Smoke alarms

In 2004, 3,173 dwellings fires (43 per cent of the total number of dwellings fires) occurred in dwellings without a smoke detector. This compares to 37 per cent (2,769 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 a smoke alarm was absent or the smoke detector was present but failed to operate (each accounting for 27 fatal casualties, or 36 per cent, in 2004).

Chart 5 - Fires 1 in dwellings 2 by smoke alarm presence and operation, Scotland, 2004

Chart 5 - Fires in dwellings by smoke alarm presence and operation, Scotland, 2004

Notes:
1 Including late call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.
2 Includes caravans, houseboats and other non-building strucuture used solely as a permanent dwelling.

3.10 Causes of fires

The number of deliberate fires in dwellings was 1,583, or 21 per cent, of the 7,420 total Scottish dwellings fires in 2004 - slightly down compared to 22 per cent in 2003. Of the remaining 79 per cent of total Scottish dwellings fires, most were accounted for by misuse of equipment or appliances (2,499 fires - 34 per cent) and chip or fat pan fires (1,120 - 15 per cent).

Chart 6 - Fires 1 in dwellings 2 by top five causes, Scotland, 1995-2004 3,4

Chart 6 - Fires in dwellings by top five causes, Scotland, 1995-2004

Notes:
1 Including "late" call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.
2 Includes caravans, houseboats and other non-building structures used solely as a permanent dwelling.
3 Data for 1995 excludes some "late" call, heat and smoke damage only incidents
4 Includes estimates for incidents occuring during ndustrial action in November 2002, January and February 2003.
5 Deliberate fires include fires where deliberate or malicious ignition was merely suspected.

3.11 False fire alarms

In 2004, total false fire alarms in Scotland constituted 54,095 incidents, representing 54 per cent of total call outs to fires (primary, secondary and chimney) and false fire alarms. This is up from 45 per cent of total call outs in 2003.

In 2004, 33,249 false fire alarms or 61 per cent of total false fire alarms were caused due to apparatus failure. The 6,350 malicious false fire alarms accounted for 12 per cent of total false fire 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.

Chart 7 - Fires by location and time of call, Scotland, 2004

Chart 7 - Fires by location and time of call, Scotland, 2004

3.12 Call out times to fires

In Scotland in 2004 the majority of call outs to all fires generally occurred from early afternoon through to late evening (approximately 4pm to midnight). Scotland's peak total fires call out occurred at around 7pm.

Dwelling fires in Scotland show a peak period between 4pm and 8pm, a similar pattern to the other countries in the UK. Callouts to outdoor fires generally occur throughout the evening and night, between 7pm and 2am.

3.13 Casualties from fires in dwellings, by time of call

In 2004, fires in dwellings were most likely to cause fatal and non-fatal casualties in the early morning (approximately midnight to 8am).

Chart 8 - Fatal and non-fatal casualties 1,2 per 1,000 dwelling fires by time of call, Scotland, 2004

Chart 8 - Fatal and non-fatal casualties per 1,000 dwelling fires by time of call, Scotland, 2004

Notes:
1 Including casualties in "late" call and heat and smoke damage incidents.
2 Excludes incidents occurring during industrial action in January and February 2003.