Fire service chiefs have issued a warning over the safe disposal of cigarettes and stressed reviews are being undertaken after a number of deaths from accidental house fires across Tyne and Wear.
The latest meeting of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority’s police and performance committee heard that between April 1 and 31 December 2022 there have been six confirmed fire fatalities in the area.
Each was as a result of an accidental dwelling fire, with two occurring in each of North Tyneside and South Tyneside, while there were also two deaths in one incident in Sunderland.
The meeting on Monday (February 20) heard four of the fatalities had been in the latest three month period from October to December, which included the Sunderland incident and one death in each of North and South Tyneside.
Lynsey McVay, assistant chief fire officer, noted in all three of these incidents they believe “smoking and the careless disposal of cigarettes” was a “contributing factor” to the cause of the blazes.
She said: “That is something that obviously we’re pushing, as we always do, with our prevention and education teams and when we get into homes and when we undertake home safety visits and safe and well visits.
“But unfortunately that [smoking and the disposal of cigarettes] has been picked up in all three incidents.”
She added following any death they conduct a “fatality case conference” to review what happened and assess if they could have done anything differently, along with looking at any previous interactions with the household.
Fire officers added they are still awaiting the coroner’s reports for the latest incidents in Sunderland and South Tyneside, which could yet prove they are not fire related deaths, however they remain counted for the time being.
Councillor Kevin Dodds, chair of the committee and Gateshead Council representative, said there is a “great deal of concern” on the “tragic” increase in fatalities and the contribution of “smoking and smoking materials”.
At the previous week’s Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority meeting, chair Councillor Phil Tye paid tribute to the families who have lost loved ones recently in incidents and the firefighters who had attended.
The Sunderland councillor said: “I know that we have support mechanisms in place but it can never ever be easy and you can never forget the trauma that our staff must go through in dealing with incidents of that nature.”
Fire service chiefs added the causes of each incident do vary and they continue to work with partners to try and prevent future tragedies and learn from past cases.