Several people lost their lives and hundreds were hurt in almost 1,000 house fires that broke out in Lancashire last year.

In 2020/21, during the first full year of the pandemic, there were 975 house fires across our area, which includes 105 that were sparked deliberately.

There were 244 house fires in Lancashire during the first national lockdown, between April and June 2020, including 18 that were started by arsonists.

That was up from 239 house fires, including 29 that were started deliberately, during the same period of 2019.

The increase happened when daily life was most impacted by the pandemic, and strict lockdown restrictions meant most people were spending far more time at home than ever before.

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Offices, factories, and other workplaces were closed, with thousands losing their jobs or placed on furlough, while others were told to work from home.

Since then, even as restrictions have eased, house fires have remained above pre-pandemic levels - with the 975 house fires recorded in 2020/21 as a whole up from 936 the year before and the highest since 2017/18.

The 105 cases of arson, however, were down from 124 in 2019/20.

Last year, house fires had a devastating impact on homeowners, renters, and tenants living in Lancashire.

Three people died in house fires in our area in 2020/21, two as a result of an accident, one from a fire started deliberately; while another 246 people were injured.

Over the last 10 years, 71 people have died and 3,675 have been hurt in a total of 11,872 house fires in Lancashire.

Those figures include 1,497 house fires that were started deliberately - causing 14 deaths and 450 casualties since 2010/11.

Two houses were completely destroyed in Lancaster in May 2020
Two houses were completely destroyed in Lancaster in May 2020

Nationally, there were a total of 27,021 house fires in England last year, including 2,725 that were sparked deliberately.

Again, the figure peaked during lockdown between April and June 2020, when there were 7,096 fires, with the number then falling as restrictions were eased.

The number was down from 7,171 fires between April and June 2019 - but within that, the number of homes deliberately set on fire rose from 687 to 702.

Overall, the 27,021 house fires seen in 2020/21 is a 5% fall from the previous year, when there were 28,499 (including 2,971 deliberate fires).

It is also the lowest number of house fires seen since records began in 1981/82.

Fires caused 186 fatalities nationally last year, which is down from 200 in 2019/20 and is also the lowest number of fatalities since records began.

More people lost their lives to arson in 2020/21 than during the previous year, however.

Fire crews rushed to Plantation Street in Bacup in October 2020
Fire crews rushed to Plantation Street in Bacup in October 2020

Last year 36 people died in house fires started deliberately, four more than in 2019/20 and the highest number from arson since 2015/16.

Overall, casualties from house fires fell by 5% from 5,154 in 2019/20 to 4,877 during the pandemic, which is the lowest number since 1981/82.

Of those, 592 were injured in fires sparked deliberately, down from 608 the previous year.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “In the year the statistics relate to more people will have been in their dwellings for longer due to the pandemic, reducing the risk of fires and making any decline relative to the previous year less significant.

“Furthermore, firefighters continue to be under-resourced for the huge burden they continue to face.

“Response times to fires compared to 2010 have risen, across every category of fire.

“With 11,500 less firefighters since 2010 it is no wonder that that is the case.”

Figures that show the amount of damage caused by house fires in 2020/21 are not yet available.

However, analysis of last year’s figures shows that of 28,447 house fires, a third of them (32%) were limited to the first item that caught fire, while in a quarter of fires (24%), the blaze was contained to the room it started in.

The whole house was destroyed or damaged in just 2% of incidents, while flames got into the roof and roof space in also just 2% of cases.

In three out of 10 house fires in 2019/20 (30%), there was no fire damage - however, there may have been heat and smoke damage.

Mark Hardingham, chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council, said: “It is great news that the number of incidents attended by fire and rescue services in England continues to fall; this is testament to the great work that fire and rescue services (FRS) continue to undertake around prevention and protection, and the innovative ways in which they have delivered this during the pandemic when face-to-face interventions were not always possible.

“It’s important to remember that these figures relate to a period when life was significantly impacted by the Covid pandemic, so we must see them in context and continue to recognise the on-going work that is required to ensure communities remain as safe and resilient as they can be.

“Despite the huge amount of positive and proactive work carried out nationally and locally, incidents, and sometimes very serious incidents, do still happen; it is of critical importance that we maintain a well-resourced FRS to respond professionally and safely to national and local emergencies.

“Of equal importance is the regulatory role of the FRS in the built environment, alongside the on-going work at a national level to drive building safety reform.”

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