Fire brigade praise after fall in arson and no deaths despite pandemic challenges
Praise has been given to the work of firefighters over the past year in dealing with challenges which have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bosses at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) said it had been “a very, very challenging year” due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and associated restrictions.
However officers also reported there had been numerous positives to be taken from their performance in a variety of areas for the year from April 2020 to March 2021.
The area had no fatalities from accidental dwelling fires, the first time this has occurred across the service since 2015/16.
Peter Heath, deputy chief fire officer, said: “The general convention is that risk follows people.
“Given it’s in a year where most people have been locked in their houses for most of the year…to achieve zero fire deaths is a fantastic outcome for communities and I hope it’s something we can replicate.”
The comments were made at the policy and performance committee on Monday (July 5) where members also heard the number of deliberate fires in the region decreased over the past year.
Across the TWFRS area there was a 16% reduction in deliberate secondary fires, a drop of 684 incidents, to 3,661.
Officers noted lockdown restrictions likely played a part in this decrease, and warned they had started to see the figures rise in line with restrictions easing.
Dave Leach, area manager for service delivery, said: “We have seen a reduction in deliberate secondary fires which is really pleasing, there’s been some significant numbers of reductions across all local authority areas.
“We did see a small increase in Gateshead, but we have had a targeted approach towards that.
“As the lockdown eased, around quarters three and four of the reporting period, we have started to see slight rises in deliberate secondary fires.”
He added station managers will be communicating with community safety teams on the issue, and stressed there will be a multi-agency approach to tackling culprits.
Officers also added they have appointed a full time fire investigator to target and aim to clampdown on the issue.
In total the service had 16 operational targets for the year, set prior to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown restrictions, achieving 13 and being within 10% of completing another.
Alongside operational duties the service has also established a Logistics Cell to help support the community response to the pandemic, including helping to carry out tests, vaccinations and deliver vital supplies.
Over the period up to March 2021 volunteers from TWFRS carried out 3,890 deliveries of essential items, 724 food packages and carried out 3,000 lateral flow tests.
During that period they also carried out 5,189 vaccinations, however since then the number has risen to almost 17,000, according to officers.
Mr Heath added: “There is a lot of learning that we’ve taken from the last year, the Logistics Cell, it was so successful in supporting the community response, elements of that are now incorporated into how we do businesses day to day.”
“The performance the service has done is only achieved through the staff here. The staff have continued to perform outstanding during this last year, which is no surprise to me.”