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Statistical Bulletin: Crime and Justice Series: Fire Statistics Scotland, 2006

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3. Commentary

3.1 Total number of fires ( Tables 1 & 1a)

There was a total of 50,520 fires (primary, secondary and chimney fires - see note 5.5 for definitions) in Scotland in 2006, 8 per cent higher than the 46,971 fires recorded in 2005. Thirty per cent (14,930) 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 (33,907) accounted for 67 per cent of all fires, compared with 65 per cent in 2005.

The number of primary fires fell for the seventh consecutive year to 14,930, down from 15,126 the previous year. Secondary fires rose by 12 per cent to stand at 33,907 and this accounted for the majority of the increase in total fires. Chimney fires rose by 16 per cent to 1,683 in 2006, from 1,456 in 2005.

The total number of fires in Scotland in 2006 (50,520) was almost the same as the number ten years previously in 1997 (50,759), however there have been some large changes in the intervening years. In 2006, the number of primary fires has fallen by about a fifth (21 per cent) compared to 1997 and chimney fires have fallen by almost two-thirds (64 per cent). The number of secondary fires has risen by a quarter (25 per cent) from the number in 1997.

Chart 2 - Fires 1,2 by location, Scotland, 1997-2006

Chart 2 - Fires1,2 by location, Scotland, 1997-2006

Notes:
1 Including late call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.
2 With the exception of 2005, figures for primary fires are based on sample data weighted to Fire and Rescue Service totals.
3 Includes estimates for incidents occuring during ten days of industrial action in November 2002.
4 Includes estimates for incidents occurring during industrial action in January and February 2003.

3.2 Building fires ( Tables 2 & 2a)

In 2006, there were a total of 9,961 building fires in Scotland, down 3 per cent from 10,244 in 2005 and the seventh consecutive year the number of building fires has fallen. Dwelling fires accounted for 70 per cent (6,972 fires) of Scotland's total buildings fires in 2006. This is a higher percentage than in any of the other UK countries. In comparison to 1997, the number of both building fires and dwellings fires are down by a quarter (25 per cent).

3.3 Outdoor fires ( Tables 3 & 3a)

In the 10 year period covered by this bulletin, outdoor fires (primary and secondary) increased by 19 per cent from 32,756 in 1997 to 38,876 in 2006. Of the outdoor fires in Scotland in 2006, 4,969 (13 per cent) were primary fires and 33,907 (87 per cent) were secondary fires.

The most common types of outdoor fires in Scotland in 2006 were refuse fires (including fires in refuse containers), accounting for 58 per cent of all outdoor fires, and grassland fires, accounting for 23 per cent of all outdoor fires. The majority of primary outdoor fires were road vehicle fires, accounting for 79 per cent of all primary outdoor fires.

3.4 Casualties from fires ( Tables 4, 4a, 5, 5a)

In Scotland, there was a total of 52 fatal casualties in 2006 - a fall of 13 (20 per cent) on the figures from 2005. Forty five (87 per cent) of fatal casualties in 2006 occurred in dwellings fires and 5 (10 per cent) were in road vehicles.

Chart 3 - Fatal casualties from fires by cause of death 1, Scotland, 2006

Chart 3 - Fatal casualties from fires by cause of death1, Scotland, 2006

Notes:
1 Table shows main injuries only, priority being given to 'burns' and being 'overcome by gas or smoke'.
However, if both these injuries occur, these are shown separately.

The biggest cause of fatal casualties was being overcome by gas or smoke (26 fatal casualties, or 50 per cent). A further 14 (27 per cent) fatal casualties were caused jointly by burns and overcome by gas or smoke, and 8 (15 per cent) fatal casualties were caused by burns alone.

The number of non-fatal casualties in Scotland in 2006 was 1,635, 2 per cent lower than in 2005. Of these non-fatal casualties, 1,419 occurred in dwellings fires (87 per cent), 121 (7 per cent) occurred in other buildings and 60 (4 per cent) occurred in road vehicles.

3.5 Casualty rates from fires ( Tables 5a & 6)

There were 10 fatal casualties per million population in Scotland in 2006. The age group with the highest rate of fatal casualties was 80 years and over, with 28 per million population. The second highest rate was for the 17-24 year age group with 17 per million population, followed by the 65-79 year age group with 16 per million population. There were no fatal casualties of children aged 10 years or younger.

In comparison to the other UK countries, Scotland reported both the second highest number of fatal casualties per million population and the highest rate of non-fatal casualties per million population (317 non-fatal casualties per million population). The equivalent fatal and non-fatal casualty figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were 8, 7 and 11 and 211, 222 and 226 respectively. Within Scotland the number of fatal casualties per million population was highest in Grampian (17 fatal casualties per million population), followed by Central (14 fatal casualties per million population).

Chart 4 - Fatal casualties per million population 1, UK, 2005 & 2006

Chart 4 - Fatal casualties per million population1, UK, 2005 & 2006

Notes:
1 General Register Office for Scotland: Mid-year Population Estimates

3.6 Deliberate fires ( Tables 7 & 7a)

There were 5,774 deliberate primary fires, representing 39 per cent of total primary fires in 2006 - the same percentage of primary fires as in 2005. In 2006, there were 13 fatal casualties from deliberate fires, accounting for 25 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 373 deliberate fire non-fatal casualties in 2006, accounting for 23 per cent of Scotland's total non-fatal casualties.

3.7 Accidental fires ( Tables 7 & 7a)

There were 9,156 accidental primary fires in 2006 accounting for 61 per cent of total primary fires. There were 39 accidental fire fatal casualties in 2006, accounting for 75 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 1,262 accidental fire non-fatal casualties in 2006, accounting for 77 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 ( Tables 8, 8a & 11)

The 45 fatal casualties in dwelling fires in 2006 represented a rate of 6 fatal casualties per 1,000 dwelling fires. This rate is the same as in England and Wales and half that in Northern Ireland. 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 population, suggesting that the reason for Scotland's higher overall fatal casualty rate per million population in 2006 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, was smokers' materials and matches. This was the source for 10 fatalities (29 per cent) in 2006, down from 28 fatalities (56 per cent) in 2005. The second most common main source of ignition was cooking appliances (mostly chip or fat pan fires), which resulted in 9 fatalities.

3.9 Smoke alarms ( Tables 9 & 9a)

In 2006, 2,693 dwellings fires (39 per cent of the total number of dwellings fires) occurred in dwellings without a smoke detector. This compares to the 2,916 (42 per cent) dwellings fires which occurred in dwellings where a smoke detector was present, operated and raised the alarm. In the 10 years covered by this bulletin, 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.

Chart 5 - Fires 1,2 in dwellings 3 by smoke alarm presence and operation, Scotland, 2006

Chart 5 - Fires1,2 in dwellings3 by smoke alarm presence and operation, Scotland, 2006

Notes:
1 Including late call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.
2 Percentages do not sum to 100 per cent due to rounding.
3 Includes caravans, houseboats and other non-building strucuture used solely as a permanent dwelling.

3.10 Causes of fires ( Tables 10 & 10a)

Twenty per cent (1,381) of the 6,972 Scottish dwellings fires in 2006 were recorded as being deliberate, slightly up compared to 19 per cent in 2005. Of the remaining 80 per cent of total Scottish dwellings fires, most were accounted for by misuse of equipment or appliances (2,564 fires - 37 per cent), chip or fat pan fires (767 - 11 per cent) and faulty appliance and leads (686 - 10 per cent).

Chart 6 - Fires 1,2 in dwellings 3 by top five causes, Scotland, 1997-2006 4

Chart 6 - Fires1,2 in dwellings3 by top five causes, Scotland, 1997-20064

Notes:
1 Including late call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.
2 With the exception of 2005, figures are based on sample data weighted to individual FRS totals.
3 Includes caravans, houseboats and other non-building structures used solely as a permanent dwelling.
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 ( Tables 13 & 13a)

In 2006, total false fire alarms in Scotland constituted 54,263 incidents, representing 52 per cent of total call outs to fires (primary, secondary and chimney) and false fire alarms. This is down slightly from 53 per cent in 2005.

In 2006, 33,744 false fire alarms or 62 per cent of total false fire alarms were caused due to apparatus failure. The 5,276 malicious false fire alarms accounted for 10 per cent of all false fire alarms, the lowest figure for the 10 years covered by this bulletin. The remaining 15,243 (28 per cent) of false fire alarms were raised with good intent.

Chart 7 - Fires 1 by location and time of call, Scotland, 2006

Chart 7 - Fires1 by location and time of call, Scotland, 2006

Notes:
1 Including late call, heat and smoke damage only incidents.

3.12 Call out times to fires ( Table 14)

In Scotland in 2006 the majority of call outs to primary fires generally occurred from early afternoon through to late evening (approximately 4pm to 11pm). Scotland's peak total fires call out occurred at around 5pm.

Dwelling fires in Scotland show a peak period between 4pm and 9pm, a similar pattern to the other countries in the UK. Call outs 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 ( Table 14a)

In 2006 in Scotland, fires in dwellings were most likely to cause fatal and non-fatal casualties in the early morning (approximately Midnight to 7am).

Chart 8 - Fatal and non-fatal casualties 1 per 1,000 dwelling 2 fires by time of call, Scotland, 2006

Chart 8 - Fatal and non-fatal casualties1 per 1,000 dwelling2 fires by time of call, Scotland, 2006

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