‘Good neighbours’ plea after four Leeds fire deaths in two months

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Fire chiefs are calling for people to look out for vulnerable neighbours after four Leeds residents aged over 60 died in separate incidents in just two months.

A 79-year-old man died following a fire at a property in Burmantofts on March 6.

That was followed by the deaths of a 65-year-old woman in Middleton on March 20 and a 61-year-old man in Holbeck on March 31.

On April 27 a 67-year-old man died after an incident in Harehills.

In a number of the cases the fires are thought to have been started by cigarettes or other smoking materials.

Ian Bitcon, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s area manager for fire safety, said the “flurry” of fatalities was at odds with the downward trend in such incidents over the last 20 years.

He added: “Fortunately, the number of fires attended by the fire service which involve a death are very few these days.

“However, to have this many in such a short period of time is unusual and we are treating this seriously. We always look at the circumstances surrounding the fire and these cases indicate several high risk factors.

“We know that older people who live alone are more at risk of fire and some of these cases also prove the rule that smoking and alcohol do not mix.”

The four deaths in Leeds were among six fatalities caused by fires across West Yorkshire since the start of March.

Most of the victims lived alone and only one had a working smoke alarm.

As part of national Dementia Awareness Week, the fire service is asking the public to think about how they can help protect older people in their community.

Mr Bitcon added: “We know historically that home fire safety checks have resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of fires in the home – having a working smoke alarm is absolutely crucial.

“If you know someone that may be at risk then don’t turn a blind eye. You can encourage them to book a safety check or make contact on their behalf and we will take it from there. You might just save a life.”

To book a free check visit www.westyorksfire.gov.uk, call 0800 5874536 or visit a fire station.