Identified risk: fires

Fires in buildings, vehicles and outdoor structures are known as primary fires as they are most likely to involve a risk to life. The majority of outdoor fires, including grassland and refuse fires, are known as secondary fires.

The following graphs show the number of fires we attend each year, the causes and the impact of fire on communities and individuals. They also indicate the trends we may expect by 2027 (based on the past being an effective indicator of the future). As indicated in our identified risks table, fires continue to be a significant risk.

The following chart shows the number of primary fires attended by type of fire. We have also developed a trend line to indicate a level of forecasted risk which we use to anticipate demand.

Number of primary fires attended, including forecast to 2026/27

The chart shows data for the four high-level categories of primary fire attended: dwelling, other building, road vehicle and outdoor location. The forecasts are based on data, from April 2009 to March 2020. We have excluded the 2020/21 financial year from our calculations as the Covid-19 pandemic had an exceptional effect on some of our incident levels.

The forecasts indicate that we are likely to see a continuation of the downward trend in dwelling fires, while primary fires in other buildings, vehicles and outdoor locations are likely to remain at a relatively consistent level. This information helps us to understand what our future operational demand may look like.

Number of primary fires attended, including forecast to 2026/27

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Year Dwelling fires attended Dwelling fires forecast
2016/17 1007  
2017/18 1061  
2018/19 929  
2019/20 937 937
2020/21 871 923
2021/22   905
2022/23   888
2023/24   870
2024/25   853
2025/26   835
2026/27   818

 

Year Other building fires attended Other building fires forecast
2016/17 502  
2017/18 457  
2018/19 475  
2019/20 491 491
2020/21 385 478
2021/22   477
2022/23   476
2023/24   475
2024/25   474
2025/26   472
2026/27   471

 

Year Vehicle fires attended Vehicle fires forecast
2016/17 747  
2017/18 673  
2018/19 798  
2019/20 748 748
2020/21 592 751
2021/22   749
2022/23   747
2023/24   746
2024/25   744
2025/26   742
2026/27   740

 

Year Outdoor fires attended Outdoor fires forecast
2016/17 31  
2017/18 38  
2018/19 48  
2019/20 45 45
2020/21 39 43
2021/22   43
2022/23   42
2023/24   42
2024/25   42
2025/26   42
2026/27   42

The proportion of primary fires attended by main cause, April 2016 - March 2021

The chart below shows the proportion of primary fires attended by the main cause of the fire for the period April 2016 to March 2021. Deliberate ignition, faulty fuel supply and cooking are the most prevalent. This type of data is used to inform our community safety messages.

Between April 2016 and March 2021, over three-quarters of primary fires (80%) started accidentally. Fuel supply fault (17%) and cooking (16%) were the most common accidental causes. We use this information as a focus for our communication campaigns. Other causes include: overheating (cause unknown), equipment fault and combustibles placed too close to a heat source.

Number of fire-related deaths in our area, including forecast to 2026/27

The chart shows the number of fire related deaths in our Service area for each financial year for the period 2016/17 to 2020/21. For the period 2021/22 to 2026/27 a forecast of fire related deaths is shown. There are around 1.8 million people in our Service area. Any fire death is a tragedy for those affected and we are committed to reducing fire deaths and injuries.

 

Number of fire-related deaths in our area, including forecast to 2026/27

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Year Accidental deaths Deliberate
2016/17 9 2
2017/18 6 0
2018/19 9 2
2019/20 8 0
2020/21 6 6

 

Year Total fire-related deaths attended Forecast
2016/17 11  
2017/18 6  
2018/19 11  
2019/20 8  
2020/21 12  
2021/22   7
2022/23   7
2023/24   6
2024/25   6
2025/26   6
2026/27   5

Primary fire risks in more detail

Dwelling fires

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Most fire-related deaths and injuries occur when there is a fire in a home, so we need to make sure that we are working effectively to reduce the number of fires and limit their severity when they do happen.

Evidence from national and local studies suggests that, while the overall risk of fire in the home is low, some people are at greater risk from fire than others. We undertake research and analysis to identify the lifestyle and environmental factors that are most commonly associated with fires and related deaths and injuries.

We understand from our recent survey that our communities are concerned about increases in the housing stock. The Office for National Statistics estimates that by 2025 the population of Devon and Somerset will have increased by 5% and that by 2043 it will have increased by 14%3. We are expecting to see more than 78,000 new homes built in our two counties by 20314, with most of this development focused around urban areas.

The Home Office publication ‘Detailed analysis of fires attended by fire and rescue services, England, April 2020 to March 2021' states "by combining Incident Recording System (IRS) and English Housing Survey data, Home Office statisticians have calculated that you are around eight times more likely to die in a fire if you do not have a working smoke alarm in your home.”


3 Office for National Statistics mid-year population estimates
4 Office for National Statistics household projections for England

High-rise building fires

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Seventy-two people died after a fire engulfed Grenfell Tower, a west London residential high-rise building. More than 200 firefighters and 40 fire engines responded to the fire, and 151 homes were destroyed in the building and the surrounding area.

The fire has impacted nationally on fire services’ prevention, protection and emergency response arrangements, and will continue to do so as lessons are learnt, and recommendations from both the public inquiry and Independent Review of Building Regulations are implemented.

Large commercial, industrial and agricultural fires

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These incidents can pose significant societal, economic and environmental risks to our communities and can require large numbers of our resources, meaning that they may not be available to respond to other incidents. Whilst the life-risk at these incidents is generally lower than at dwelling fires, undertaking firefighting activity in large and often complex buildings can pose a high risk to our firefighters.

Hospitals and residential care home fires

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While the likelihood of a significant fire in hospitals, residential homes and other health care acute services5 is low, the potential severity of an incident in a setting that accommodates many people with greater levels of vulnerability due to health and wellbeing issues is high. The buildings are often large and complex and our response can be challenging due to hazardous materials and procedures that we need to follow.

Hotel and guest house fires

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Like hospitals and residential care homes, hotels and guest houses have the potential for significant loss of life in the event of fire. This is largely because many people are sleeping in an unfamiliar environment and are likely to be less aware of the layout of the building.

Heritage building fires

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Losing any historic building or landscape to fire, storm or flood would be a significant loss to local, and in some cases national or even international heritage. The effects can be far-reaching, including loss of unique features and irreplaceable art, and the economic impact on local communities.
 

Fires on-board vessels

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Although the Service does not have an offshore firefighting responsibility, we do have a duty to respond to fires in vessels alongside (next to land). These incidents can be hazardous because of the way vessels are constructed. Getting in and getting out is difficult and fire can spread easily by conduction through metal bulkheads and air handling machinery.

Flooding and wildfires

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The impact of global warming on the environment can also be seen in the increase in wildfires globally. More locally, Devon and Somerset have two major national parks within our area and we need to ensure we have sufficient resources in place at the right time to minimise the impact on affected communities. At the same time, the Service has experience that it can use to support others who are charged with the responsibility for reducing the impact of flooding.