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'Tipping point' warning as figures reveal surge in blazes for Norfolk's firefighters

PUBLISHED: 11:15 14 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:58 14 August 2019

Firefighters tackle a house fire at a home in Mousehold Lane in Norwich. Picture Dan Grimmer.

Firefighters tackle a house fire at a home in Mousehold Lane in Norwich. Picture Dan Grimmer.

Archant

Norfolk's firefighters tackled their highest number of blazes in almost a decade in 2018/19, new figures have revealed.

And members of the fire brigades union warn a 'tipping point' has been reached - calling on the government to stump up extra cash to cope with rising demand.

Norfolk Fire and Rescue was called out to 2,605 fires in 2018/19 - the highest number since 2011/12. That was an increase of 19pc compared to the previous 12 months, when 2,184 were reported.

Last summer's tinderbox dry conditions, which led to a surge in wildfires contributed to the increase, but there was also a slight rise in the number of house fires from 456 to 467 - in which three people died.

The overall number of call-outs for the service, recently rated as requiring improvement by inspectors, increased to 7,639 from 7,431 in 2017/18.

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Norfolk's chief fire officer Stuart Ruff said: "Last summer's wildfires account for the increase in the number of fires and call-outs in Norfolk in 2018/19.

"We did also see an increase in deliberate fires, in part due to fires started without malicious intent, such as barbecues and bonfires, but which became out of control due to the hot weather.

"We are extremely proud of how our service rose to the challenges placed on it last summer and are grateful to all staff and to the employers of our on-call firefighters who allowed them to work for us tackling incidents across the county."

Alan Jaye, chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Fire Brigades Union, said the figures "busted the myth" the fire service is less busy than it used to be.

He said the fire service nationally had seen funding of cuts of 30pc under the government's austerity programme and said: "This has to stop. Funding for the service must now be increased alongside that announced for the police.

"We must also note that along with increased incidents we have increased attendance times. In a fire incident every second counts and only increased funding will reverse this trend. Whilst Norfolk has managed it still requires significant investment in the frontline."

In Suffolk, where a controversial policy change means crews of three firefighters are being sent to incidents, there were 1,937 fires in 2018/19 - the highest number since 2013-14 and an increase of 17pc on 2017/18.

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