Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) is asking people to make home fire safety a priority in 2016, to help protect themselves and their families from the dangers of fire.

It follows a year in which there was an increase in the number of accidental dwelling fires and the number of fire deaths as a result of accidental dwelling fires.

In total, there were 882 accidental dwelling fires in 2014 and 889 in 2015. Tragically, there were eight accidental fire deaths in 2014 and 11 people lost their lives in accidental dwelling fires in 2015.

Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said: “Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the 11 people who lost their lives in accidental house fires last year.

“For us, as a fire and rescue service, one accidental fire death is one too many and we want to reach a stage where we have no fatalities in Northern Ireland due to accidental houses fires.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to achieving that.

“By using our risk based approach and by working closely with various partner agencies in the health, social care and voluntary sectors, we are targeting those people who are most vulnerable from the risks of fire in the home and providing them with practical fire safety advice to support them.

“People aged over 65, people with mobility issues or a sensory impairment who also smoke are deemed higher risk to the dangers of fire and we will continue to work hard to identify and help those people.

“However, no-one is immune to the dangers of fire and no-one should become complacent about their own fire safety – it can happen to any of us. In 2016, through our own community engagement activities and with the support of the public we can reduce the number of accidental dwelling fires occurring. We all need to take personal responsibility for our own fire safety.

“By routinely completing a number of simple fire safety steps, you can drastically reduce the risk of a fire in your home this year and beyond.

“Get into the habit of checking your smoke alarms every week to make sure they are working.

“Every year firefighters are called to fires in homes where smoke alarms are fitted, but are not working properly.

“A working smoke alarm will provide you and your family with an early warning to fire in the house to give you the best possible chance to escape.

“Plan your escape route. Everyone should know what to do in a fire. If a fire occurs at night your escape may be hindered by the dark or difficult conditions. If you have already planned an escape route and everyone in the house knows what to do, escaping safely will be much easier.

“We also do free home fire safety checks, whereby local firefighters will visit your home to carry out a fire safety check.

“Firefighters will look for any potential fire hazards in the home, provide advice to help avoid fire and most importantly ensure that your smoke alarm is working. If necessary, we will fit a free smoke alarm for you.”

Mr Walmsley concluded: “Remember to make fire safety in the home the one New Year’s resolution you never break – it could save you and your family’s life.”

To arrange a free Home Fire Safety Check call 028 9260 0477. Text phone/ Minicom 028 9262 8800 or go to the website www.nifrs.org for further information.

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