A NEW fire officer has been credited with helping to drive down blazes in Sunderland.
Keith Carruthers, temporary district manager for Sunderland in Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, has now had his appointment extended.
Over the last year, the number of fire incidents in the city has gone down, with the number of deaths and injuries also decreasing.
The number of fires being deliberately started fell by 12 per cent, with the number accidental fires also coming down by 11 per cent.
However, two people died in fires in Sunderland in 2011 – figures not included in the latest report.
Pensioner Mary Pells Black, 86, died after a gas explosion at her home in Hylton Castle last July, while dad Michael Wilkinson was killed in a fire at his Washington Street house, in Millfield, in May.
Mr Carruthers, 41, who has been in the role for seven months and with the brigade since 1996, said: “I am delighted to continue the excellent work already achieved in the borough.
“Thankfully, we are seeing a downward trend in all fire-related incidents and injuries, but two people sadly lost their lives in house fires last year and our thoughts are with their family and friends.
“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.”
The brigade also carried out more than 7,300 home safety checks across Sunderland during the past year.
Mr Carruthers added: “We work closely with organisations involved in adult and social care such as Age UK, NHS, the Sensory Impairment Team, the Home Improvement Agency, Sunderland City Council’s Health, Housing and Adult Services, Northumbria Police, the Youth Offending Service, Gentoo and the voluntary service to target people who are more vulnerable to having a fire to help make them safer.
“We also carry out a range of activities to help reduce accidental and deliberate fires, including the award winning Phoenix programme, Prince’s Trust courses, our schools education programme, a play in secondary schools by theatre company Gibber to highlight the consequences of antisocial behaviour as well as work with the hospitals, Gentoo and sheltered accommodation to reduce false alarms.”
Despite the improved statistics, Mr Carruthers added that there are targets the brigade want to achieve.
He said: “This year we are hoping to work even closer with the NHS and Sunderland City Council to reduce fire risk for vulnerable people.
“One in three deaths from accidental house fires are as a result of people smoking whilst drinking alcohol in the home or smoking in bed.
“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.”