The risk of death and injury from a fire at home, at work and in the wider community tragically still exists across the UK. Around three-quarters of fire deaths still occur in dwellings. Over the last ten years there have been 25 fire fatalities in the Service area, 2 of which were work related.

There’s a downward trend in dwelling fires both nationally and in our county, with the lowest number of 289 incidents recorded in our Service area in 2020/21. This downward trend in incidents is responsible for the reduction in the number of nonfatal injuries at accidental dwelling fires.

The downward trends reflect our proactive prevention and protection work to stop these incidents from occurring in the first place, as well as improved fire safety standards, building design and regulations, changing cooking habits, increased smoke alarm ownership, and a reduction in smoking.

While there is likely to be a growth in house numbers in the county over the next 5 years, these homes will meet modern safety regulations, significantly reducing fire risk. Even in older buildings, renovation and improvement works to modern standards, should also reduce fire risk.

We have explored the factors that increase the likelihood of a dwelling fire as well as the factors that put people at greater risk of dying in a house fire.

The people most likely to experience a fire are:

  • those living in rented households rather than owner occupiers;
  • those living in flats rather than those in a house;
  • those under the age of 60;
  • those living in a household with five or more members rather than those living in smaller
  • households; and,
  • those with a long-term illness or disability rather than those without.

However, national data show that there are factors that put people more at risk of dying in a fire, including not being able to self-evacuate. These are:

  • older people (65+);
  • people with mobility issues;
  • those that live alone; and,
  • people who live in more deprived areas.

Those over 65 represent the largest proportion of fire fatalities and injuries in our Service area over the last 10 years. All districts have an ageing population, with a predicted 14% increase across North Yorkshire and the City of York in over 65s by 2025 (compared to 2018). While these people may be less likely to have a fire, if they do, the consequences could be more severe.

The Indices of Deprivation 2019 provide a set of relative measures of deprivation for small areas across England.

These small areas are known as Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs) and are designed to be of a similar population size, with an average of approximately 1,500 residents or 650 households. This means that an urban area will have many LSOAs covering a small geographical area compared to less populated rural areas. Across North Yorkshire we have 493 LSOAs.

An overall Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) for each LSOA is based on seven ‘domains of deprivation’ with each ‘domain’ having a particular weighting.

There are seven domains of deprivation, which combine to create the Index of Multiple Deprivation, 2019 (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government). They are:

  • Income (22.5%): measures the proportion of the population experiencing deprivation relating to low income
  • Employment (22.5%): measures the proportion of the working age population in an area involuntarily excluded from the labour market
  • Education 13.5%: measures the lack of attainment and skills in the local population
  • Health (13.5%): measures the risk of premature death and the impairment of quality of life through poor physical or mental health
  • Crime (9.3%): measure the risk of personal and material victimisation at local level
  • Barriers to Housing & Services (9.3%): measure the physical and financial accessibility of housing and local services
  • Living Environment (9.3%): measures the quality of both int ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ local environment

Areas with a high IMD score are linked to areas of highest demand for our services. In 2019 the average IMD score for North Yorkshire and the City of York was amongst the lowest in the country. Of the 493 LSOAs in North Yorkshire and the City of York, 30 are amongst the 20% most deprived in England, 20 of which are in the Scarborough district.

We have created a combined risk score that incorporates both the likelihood of people experiencing a house fire and of having a severe outcome linked to their difficulty in evacuating.

We have used datasets based on the risk factors. The data sets used are:

  • age, in particular focussing on over 65s living alone;
  • proxy indicators of frailty e.g. blue badge ownership;
  • a social renter data set; and
  • Indices of Multiple Deprivation.

We used modelling software to create a combined risk score across the datasets. We put the scores into 5 bands allowing us to compare the relative risk across the county. A higher score will place it in a higher risk band which we can show on a map. The bands allow us to compare risk by showing areas that have higher numbers of people that meet the risk factors. We recognise however, that the calculated level of vulnerability in an area will not apply to every person living there.

So what does this tell us?

  • Overall, the risk of death or injury in a residential fire is low but they still occur.
  • We need to find and help those most at risk to prevent fires from occurring.
  • The spread of risk is quite consistent however, there are more areas towards the east of the Service area with greater numbers of people meeting the risk factors.
  • The larger urban centres such as York, Harrogate and Scarborough have a broad range of fire risk including the highest risk areas.
  • A lot of our higher risk is on the borders of our county, further from our fire stations, meaning we need to focus more of our prevention activity in these areas.
  • Our prevention services need to adapt and develop to meet the needs caused by societal changes such as an ageing population.
  • We have a significant role to play working in partnerships to further reduce fire risk within our communities.