Safety warning as 25 rescues carried out in two weeks

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FIRE chiefs are counting the cost of a soaring number of call-outs over the festive season in Edinburgh, revealing crews dealt with more than 50 blazes and rescued 25 people in the space of two weeks.

The service today urged residents to make a New Year resolution to fit a working smoke alarm in their house.

Across the Lothians, there were 91 blazes between December 19 and January 2, and when a cause could be determined, 23 blazes were found to be cooking-related, 19 were blamed on matches, lighters or candles, and 17 were started by faulty electrics. A further 11 were caused by cigarettes or other smoking materials.

Geoff Aird, community safety manager at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service, said: “In the run up to the festive period we did a lot of work to make people aware that research shows fires over the festive season increase significantly. We know that accidental house fires rise by 20 per cent and fire casualties rise by 33 per cent. You are statistically more at risk at this time of year.

“Sadly this was borne out by our experience over the Christmas period.

“This was an extremely busy time for our firefighters and control room staff.”

Mr Aird said Edinburgh was the “worst hit”, with 54 fires requiring 25 victim rescues.

Among the incidents the sevice attended was a fire started on December 28 by a 65-year-old cancer patient, who suffered burns when he sneaked into a toilet at the Western General Hospital to have a cigarette despite being on oxygen. He died 48 hours later. Crews also rescued a dozen people in a Christmas Eve drama in Smithfield Street, Gorgie, after a blaze tore through a first-floor flat. Six casualties were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation in an incident which saw rescued residents called “lucky to see Christmas” by fire chiefs.

Meanwhile, a 27-year-old man suffered serious burns in a fire in Murrayburn Place, Wester Hailes, while a group of ten people had to be rescued from a tenement in Morrison Street after rubbish was set alight in the stairwell, both on New Year’s Day.

Mr Aird added: “Once again the causes of these fires are all too familiar to us and we cannot stress enough the importance of having a working smoke detector and exercising caution whilst cooking, smoking and using matches and cigarette lighters at home.

“Many fires are entirely preventable. Why not make it your New Year’s resolution to book a free home safety visit?

“Just call 0800 169 0320 to arrange a visit and local firefighters will arrange an appointment to come and fit your free smoke alarm and give you fire safety advice.”

Councillor Paul Edie, the city’s community safety leader, said: “Simple steps like installing a smoke alarm and taking care when cooking or using matches in the home can quite literally save people’s lives.

“I would urge everyone to ensure you have a smoke alarm fitted in the home and, more importantly, that it is working properly.”