Norfolk fire chief calls for sprinklers in new homes

A increase in accidental fires in Norfolk homes has prompted the county's chief fire officer to suggest all new houses should have sprinkler systems fitted when they are built.

The number of fires started accidentally at homes in the county has increased by almost a quarter in the past year - up from 189 blazes to 231.

And Nigel Williams, chief fire officer at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said it might be time for the whole of the UK to follow the lead set in Wales, where the Welsh government passed a law which means all new build homes have to have sprinkler systems fitted.

While all new homes in the UK have had to have smoke alarms fitted since 1985, Mr Williams said he would support going a step further.

He said: 'I think that is a very sensible way forward and I would like to see that come in in this country.'

On the increase in accidental house fires, Mr Williams said: 'For a number of years the number was in decline but that decline has started to go back up. We are looking at the risks and finding that it is predominantly around cooking.

'We are working to reduce that and wwe are hoping volunteers can help drive down those dwelling fires.'

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So far this year there have been no fire deaths in Norfolk, but the service is directing resources to its home fire risk check programme aimed at vulnerable people at higher risk of fire.

A project is also underway to recruit volunteers to help firefighters spread the message over fire safety education and prevention.

For a number of years the service has fitted free smoke alarms and carried out home risk assessments.

But Mr Williams said just fitting smoke alarms was not always the answer, especially in a county with a rapidly ageing population. He said: 'Just fitting smoke alarms might reassure the service, but it does not necessarily give the best fire defence system.

'We have got an ageing community and for some people, if they have mobility problems, they might hear the alarm, but are not mobile enough to get out.

'By looking at the new personalised budgets, it could give us an opportunity to give what people need based on their needs, rather than just sticking a smoke alarm up.'

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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