Fire chief warns tough times could lead to more blazes in Norfolk

Norfolk's fire chief has warned tough economic times could contribute to more fires in the county – because cash-strapped families might not take so much care to replace faulty electrical appliances.

Nigel Williams, chief fire officer at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, issued the warning as he revealed a target of carrying out home fire checks on the county's vulnerable people had been missed.

The service and partner agencies have carried out 1,344 such checks in this financial year, some way short of the 4.530 target, although Mr Williams acknowledged that had been an ambitious goal.

He said the service had recently recruited five community safety volunteers, who would help spread the fire safety messages to vulnerable people.

'We hope the volunteers and better targeting will help us get there. I know that Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn have really started to move in a very good direction of better targeting vulnerable people and we've got software which enables us to profile where those people are.

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'But the key is getting behind the door, because people can be, rightly, wary about cold-callers.

'These are not only people we need to reach, but people who are hard to reach.'

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Mr Williams said the tough economic climate could play a part in causing more fires in people's homes.

'With the rising cost of fuel, people might resort to novel means of cooking at home.

'We have even had people take gas barbecues into their homes, which also puts them at risk of gassing themselves, so it's important to get behind people's doors to talk to them about what they are doing.

'And in difficult times we fear people might not replace electrical equipment which could be faulty.

'Trading Standards recently did a fantastic job with electric blankets, where they tested them and more than 50pc failed the test.'

Mr Williams hoped a mixture of community safety volunteers and firefighters could be used to get into the homes of people at risk to alert them to dangers.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of Norfolk County Council's fire and rescue overview and scrutiny panel at County Hall yesterday.

Mr Williams previously queried whether people buying cheaper tyres during the recession had contributed to an increase in car crashes in Norfolk.

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