Today’s columnist, James Courtney, chief fire officer: Community work is paying off

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Last month the Government published its latest fire statistics.

The national figures for 2014-15 show another drop in the number of incidents attended by fire and rescue services.

In fact, the figures show record lows for the number of accidental house fires and people killed and injured in fires.

I’m proud that the national picture is reflected in South Yorkshire.

Here, for example, accidental house fires have dropped to 412 – that’s less than half the 989 we attended a decade ago.

Fire-related injuries have also fallen by similar levels whilst outdoor arson attacks, like bin and grass fires, are at their second lowest on record.

A big reason for these massive successes is the work we do in our communities.

These range from our education work in schools and the safety checks that we carry out in people’s homes, to our safety campaigns and the work we do with local partners like charities and public organisations to raise awareness of fire safety.

But the reduction in fires does give us greater capacity to do more useful work in our communities.

Firefighters are brilliant, skilled people who care enormously about the people they serve.

We’ve been carrying out other work such as freeing people from road traffic collisions, specialist rescues and attending flooding incidents for decades.

So I think it’s natural for us to start thinking about the wider role we can play in supporting the work of other local authorities, particularly councils, hospitals and the ambulance service in supporting the national public health agenda.

But of course, our core work remains fighting fires, and rescue.

The professionalism of our firefighters was illustrated brilliantly, again, by the huge fire we were called out to in Doncaster last month.

The incident at a factory in Hexthorpe took several hours to bring under control and caused a massive smoke plume which could be seen for several miles and caused delays on a nearby railway line.

Well done to all of our firefighters who attended the incident and worked hard to protect other, neighbouring businesses from the fire.

Thank you also to residents living close to the fire for their patience while we dealt with the factory fire.