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Fire Statistics Scotland, 2007

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3. Commentary

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

There was a total of 45,912 fires (primary, secondary and chimney fires - see note 5.5 for definitions) in Scotland in 2007, 9 per cent lower than the 50,520 fires recorded in 2006. 30 per cent (13,805) were primary fires, of which 70 per cent were in buildings, 23 per cent were road vehicle fires and the remainder other outdoor fires. Secondary fires (30,552) accounted for 67 per cent of all fires, the same as in 2006.

The number of primary fires fell for the eighth consecutive year to 13,805, down from 14,930 the previous year. Secondary fires fell by 10 per cent to stand at 30,552. Chimney fires fell by 8 per cent to 1,555 in 2007, from 1,683 in 2006.

The total number of fires in Scotland in 2007 (45,912) was almost the same as the number ten years previously in 1998 (45,595), however there have been some large changes in the intervening years. In 2007, the number of primary fires has fallen by about a quarter (27 per cent) compared to 1998 and chimney fires have fallen by almost two thirds (62 per cent). The number of secondary fires has risen by over a third (35 per cent) from the number in 1998.

Chart 2 - Fires 1, 2 by location, Scotland, 1998-2007

Chart 2 - Fires by location, Scotland, 1998-2007

3.2 Building fires (Tables 2 & 2a)

In 2007, there were a total of 9,637 building fires in Scotland, down 3 per cent from 9,961 in 2006 and the eighth consecutive year the number of building fires has fallen. Dwelling fires accounted for 69 per cent (6,684 fires) of Scotland's total buildings fires in 2007. This is a higher percentage than in any of the other UK countries. In comparison to 1998, the number of both building fires and dwellings fires are down by a quarter (26 and 27 per cent respectively).

3.3 Outdoor fires (Tables 3 & 3a)

In the 10 year period covered by this bulletin, outdoor fires (primary and secondary) increased by 21 per cent from 28,581 in 1998 to 34,720 in 2007. Of the outdoor fires in Scotland in 2007, 4,168 (12 per cent) were primary fires and 30,552 (88 per cent) were secondary fires.

The most common types of outdoor fires in Scotland in 2007 were refuse fires (including fires in refuse containers), accounting for 64 per cent of all outdoor fires, and grassland fires, accounting for 13 per cent of all outdoor fires. The majority of primary outdoor fires were road vehicle fires, accounting for 78 per cent of all primary outdoor fires.

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

In Scotland, there was a total of 59 fatal casualties in 2007 - a rise of 7 (13 per cent) on the figures from 2006. Forty-three (73 per cent) fatal casualties in 2007 occurred in dwellings fires and 7 (12 per cent) were in road vehicles.

Chart 3 - Fatal casualties from fires by cause of death 1, Scotland, 2007

Chart 3 - Fatal casualties from fires by cause of death, Scotland, 2007

The biggest cause of fatal casualties was being overcome by gas or smoke (25 fatal casualties, or 42 per cent). A further 19 (32 per cent) fatal casualties were caused jointly by burns and overcome by gas or smoke, and 8 (14 per cent) fatal casualties were caused by burns alone.

The number of non-fatal casualties in Scotland in 2007 was 1,722, 5 per cent higher than in 2006. Of these non-fatal casualties, 1,530 occurred in dwellings fires (89 per cent), 112 (7 per cent) occurred in other buildings and 59 (3 per cent) occurred in road vehicles.

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

There were 11.3 fatal casualties per million population in Scotland in 2007. The age group with the highest rate of fatal casualties was 80 and over, with 23 fatalities per million population. The second highest rate was for the 65 - 79 year age group with 21 per million population, followed by the 60-64 year age group with 17 per million population. There were no fatal casualties of children aged 16 years or younger.

In comparison to the other UK countries, Scotland reported both the highest number of fatal casualties per million population and the highest rate of non-fatal casualties per million population (333 non-fatal casualties per million population). The equivalent fatal and non-fatal casualty figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, were 6.5, 8.7 and 10.8 fatal and 200, 217 and 210 non-fatal respectively. Within Scotland the number of fatal casualties per million population was highest in Tayside (20 fatal casualties per million population), followed by Highlands and Islands (18 fatal casualties per million population).

Chart 4 - Fatal casualties per million population 1,2, UK, 2006 & 2007

Chart 4 - Fatal casualties per million population UK, 2006 & 2007

3.6 Deliberate fires (Tables 7 & 7a)

There were 4,925 deliberate primary fires, representing 36 per cent of total primary fires in 2007 - down from 39 per cent in 2006. In 2007, there were 10 fatal casualties from deliberate fires, accounting for 17 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 377 deliberate fire non-fatal casualties in 2007, accounting for 22 per cent of Scotland's total non-fatal casualties.

3.7 Accidental fires (Tables 7 & 7a)

There were 8,880 accidental primary fires in 2007 accounting for 64 per cent of total primary fires. There were 49 accidental fire fatal casualties in 2007, accounting for 83 per cent of total fatal casualties. There were 1,345 accidental fire non-fatal casualties in 2007, accounting for 78 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 43 fatal casualties in dwelling fires in 2007 represented a rate of 6 fatal casualties per 1,000 dwelling fires. This rate is the same as in England and lower than in Wales and Northern Ireland (8 and 13 per 1,000 fires). 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 2007 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 20 fatalities (50 per cent) in 2007, up from 10 fatalities (29 per cent) in 2006. The second most common main source of ignition was cooking appliances, which resulted in 5 fatalities.

3.9 Smoke alarms (Tables 9 & 9a)

In 2007, 2,490 dwelling fires (37 per cent of the total number of dwellings fires) occurred in dwellings without a smoke detector. This compares to the 2,877 (43 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 in dwellings 2 by smoke alarm presence and operation, Scotland, 2007

Chart 5 - Fires in dwellings by smoke alarm presence and operation, Scotland, 2007

3.10 Causes of fires (Tables 10 & 10a)

Nineteen per cent (1,260) of the 6,684 Scottish dwellings fires in 2007 were recorded as being deliberate, slightly down compared to 20 per cent in 2006. Of the remaining 81 per cent of total Scottish dwellings fires, most were accounted for by misuse of equipment or appliances (2,539 fires - 38 per cent), chip or fat pan fires (610 - 9 per cent) and faulty appliance and leads (664 - 10 per cent).

Chart 6 - Fires 1,2 in dwellings 3 by top five causes, Scotland, 1998-2007 4,5

Chart 6 - Fires in dwellings by top five causes, Scotland, 1998-2007

3.11 False fire alarms (Tables 13 & 13a)

In 2007, total false fire alarms in Scotland constituted 53,840 incidents, representing 54 per cent of total call outs to fires (primary, secondary and chimney) and false fire alarms. This is up slightly from 52 per cent in 2006.

In 2007, 33,856 false fire alarms or 63 per cent of total false fire alarms were caused due to apparatus failure. The 4,920 malicious false fire alarms accounted for 9 per cent of all false fire alarms, the lowest figure for the 10 years covered by this bulletin. The remaining 15,064 (28 per cent) of false fire alarms were raised with good intent.

3.12 Call out times to fires (Table 14)

In Scotland in 2007 the majority of call outs to primary fires generally occurred from mid-afternoon through to late evening (approximately 4pm to 11pm). Scotland's peak total fires call out occurred at around 6pm.

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, highest between 7pm and 2am.

Chart 7 - Fires 1 by location and time of call, Scotland, 2007

Chart 7 - Fires by location and time of call, Scotland, 2007

3.13 Casualties from fires in dwellings, by time of call (Table 14a)

In 2007 in Scotland, fires in dwellings were most likely to cause fatal and non-fatal casualties in the late evening to early morning (approximately 10pm to 7am).

Chart 8 - Fatal and non-fatal casualties 1 per 1,000 dwelling fires by time of call, Scotland, 2007

Chart 8 - Fatal and non-fatal casualties per 1,000 dwelling fires by time of call, Scotland, 2007