Warning over house fire risk to elderly

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THE fire service has warned of risks to the elderly after an old man was rescued after falling in his flat.

Firefighters were called to a grill pan fire on Tuesday evening after an 88-year-old was unable to put it out.

A quick-thinking neighbour heard the smoke alarm through the walls and alerted firefighters.

Crews were scrambled to Shandon Street at 5.40pm where the man was given oxygen therapy for smoke inhalation but did not need hospital treatment.

People over 60 account for almost two-thirds of those killed in fires, with smoking, living alone and mobility problems also cited as risk factors.

Steve Gourlay, prevention and protection manager for Edinburgh, today urged people to tell the service about friends or neighbours who may be at risk.

He said: “If someone is over the age of 60, lives alone or has difficulty moving around then it can take more time for them to escape in an emergency.

“They need to know not to smoke in bed, or even while feeling tired and sitting in a chair. If the person just can’t avoid doing this then we can work with partners and 
communities to help make them safer.

“There is a huge amount of support available but we need our partner agencies and the public to help us make sure it gets to those who need it.”

He added: “We also want to remind people that if they hear a smoke alarm activating then they need to call 999 and report it right away.

“Many people can be reluctant to make an emergency call and assume an alarm has gone off due to something innocuous like burnt toast, but the fact is waiting to see if the alarm stops could cost someone their life.”

News of the incident comes as firefighters throughout Scotland are running a ‘week of action’ aimed at preventing accidental house fires.

Firefighters have already visited more than 20 sheltered housing complexes across 
the Capital this week and have carried out 5000 home 
visits throughout the rest of the year.

They are also calling on the support of partner agencies to reach out to those who they know to be at risk.

Mr Gourlay stressed that even “minor actions” were known to dramatically reduce the chance of a fire starting.

By 2035, 23 per cent of the UK will be aged 65 and over so helping older people prevent fires looks set to remain an issue for communities.

Crews across the city are often called to incidents involving older people, including one in September 2011 which saw a 69-year-old living in sheltered housing die from burns following a house fire in Leith.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com