FIRE chiefs today welcomed a drop in the number of blazes on Wearside.
New figures show the rate of callouts attended by Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service in Sunderland fell by three per cent, with the number of deliberate fires dropping by the same number.
Other positives for the brigade included accidental house fires falling by six per cent and a 30 per cent fall in the number of hoax calls received.
Two people, however, died in fire-related incidents, up from none in 2010/11.
John Hall, district manager for Sunderland, hailed the statistics, but said more work had still to be done.
“Over the last year we’ve seen reductions in fires in the area which shows the fire prevention work we do is paying off,” he said.
“I am also very pleased to see a significant reduction in hoax calls.
“However, we still have work to do as the number of people injured in house fires has increased slightly and sadly, two people lost their lives.
“There have been no deaths in the first quarter of this year and all stations throughout the district have had a reduction in house fire injuries compared to the last quarter.
“Our priority is to ensure there are no deaths or injuries from fire and we are working with our partners in Sunderland to achieve this.”
Mr Hall said officers completed almost 8,100 home safety checks, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year.
He added: “Last year, we also launched a new initiative with Sunderland Telecare Services, which supports more than 22,000 vulnerable people living at home.
“Telecare’s call centre has also been able to filter out false fire signals in homes, which has reduced unnecessary turnouts of appliances.
“We are also working even closer with the NHS and Sunderland City Council to reduce fire risk for vulnerable people.
“We will be working with partners, carrying out home safety checks, fitting smoke alarms and focusing our resources effectively to protect our vulnerable members of the community who may be more at risk from fire in the coming year.”
The figures were released as Sunderland South and Houghton MP Bridget Phillipson lobbied Parliament for a rethink in budget cuts, which have seen the service face a drop in funding by 12 per cent.
The service has already lost 68 firefighters, along with about a third of its enforcement and support staff, with 136 more firefighters to go by 2015 and up to four pumps lost.