Cooking woes cause Norfolk house fire surge

Firefighters are tackling an average of 40 accidental house fire each month, with cooking the cause of more than half of the blazes, new figures have revealed.

The number of accidental house fires in Norfolk has gone up by 12pc in the past year, with Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service attending 478 accidentally-started house fires across the county in 2011/12, compared to 425 over the previous 12 months.

Cooking which got out of control or which was left unattended was the cause of 56pc of the fires.

The rate of accidental house fires has increased across Norfolk every year since 2006 and the service has been trying to tackle the problem.

A new risk assessment system - to identify vulnerable people at particular risk - was set up, initially in north Norfolk, but that was rolled out across the rest of the county between February and April this year.

The service is also recruiting community volunteers to spread the message about fire safety education and fire prevention tips.

But Mr Williams is especially keen to see developers of all new homes fitting sprinklers as standard and has been lobbying at a national level.

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He said: 'Sprinklers are the equivalent of having a fire fighter in every room of the house. The Welsh Assembly has enacted it as law that all new houses have sprinklers in and I will continue to lobby for that here.

'I have also been lobbying Norfolk Property Services and they have assured me that all new dementia care homes they build will be fitted with sprinklers.'

Other new figures, which were revealed to Norfolk County Council's fire and rescue overview and scrutiny committee at a meeting yesterday, showed firefighters went to 1,316 arsons in the county during 2011/12, up just four on 2010/11.

There was a particular surge across the county in March, compared to the number between December and February, with chief fire officer Nigel Williams blaming a repeat offender.

He said: 'We had about 11 fires which were set by one person. Sometimes you get that, when there are three or four fires started before you realise there is a pattern to it.

'There are occasions when people become fascinated by fire or where other issues come to the surface and they begin lighting fires.

'They do occur a few times each year across every service. It's important for us to intervene quickly and to work with our partners to get those people the help that they need.

'If somebody thinks they know somebody who is doing this, then they should alert us to it.'

He said Norfolk Fire and Rescue Services' community fire safety team works closely with the police in following up such arson outbreaks and works in schools to tackle potential issues.

• Do you think sprinklers should be fitted in new homes as a matter of course? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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