More than half of fire calls ‘false alarms’ in West Sussex last year

Storrington coach fire earlier this year (submitted).
Storrington coach fire earlier this year (submitted).

More than half of all incidents firefighters attended in West Sussex were false alarms last year according to a report.

Of the 9,504 calls to West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service in 2012/13, 5,141 were false alarms.

According to figures in its annual report 2,211 calls were listed under ‘good intent’, compared to just 108 described as ‘malicious’. The rest were down to automatic fire alarms.

Performance on almost all indicators improved over the previous year, with response times improving. Deliberate fires fell by 38 per cent, dwelling fire injuries were down by 10 per cent and hoax calls decreased by 25 per cent.

However, the overall number of house fires in West Sussex increased by 11 per cent, to 484 and the number of house fire fatalities rose by 50 per cent to six.

Sean Ruth, chief fire officer, said: “Our aim is to make West Sussex a safer place for everyone and to provide people with an efficient and effective fire and rescue service.

“We’ve published this report to share our recent progress towards that aim with the public and all our other stakeholders.

“By focusing our resources where they are most needed and being flexible about how we deliver our services we have been able to make considerable financial savings without compromising the safety of the public or our firefighters.

“The continued progress we have made in reaching some of the county’s most vulnerable residents is significant and it’s pleasing to see the work we’ve done reflected in a fall in the number of those injured as a result of a fire in their home.

“The drive and commitment to keep on improving what we do and striving to make a difference to people in West Sussex won’t change, regardless of the increasingly challenging financial climate we are operating in.”

The report printed extracts from thank you letters from Storrington First School pupils to firefighters, who were called to the A29 in January after a coach carrying the children caught fire on a school trip.

All the children were safely evacuated from the coach.

In 2012/13 WSF&RS carried out 5,478 home fire safety checks and 2,277 telecare-linked smoke alarms were fitted.

The report states that people in West Sussex are four times more likely to die in a road traffic collision than they are in a fire.

In total 440 people were killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads, down nine per cent.