The Fire Brigades Union said the effects of climate change mean it is “no surprise” that flood deaths also hit a record high across England.
Home Office data shows that in West Yorkshire, 30 deaths or injuries occurred in incidents where firefighters were called to flooding or other water emergencies in 2019-20. This was the highest number since comparable records began in 2010-11, and up from 24 in 2018-19. Figures reveal that last year’s incidents involved four deaths, 23 hospitalisations and three where precautionary checks were carried out.
Across England, there were 111 deaths, 274 hospitalisations and 422 injuries overall – all the highest on record. Of the 17,505 flooding incidents last year, 13% occurred in February, when Storms Dennis and Ciara hit.
The FBU said it was “long past time” the Government gave fire crews in England a statutory duty to respond to flooding to ensure that flood risks were fully assessed, and the necessary resources made available.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The Government needs to recognise that these incidents are only becoming more frequent and more damaging with climate change – just as, at the other end of the scale, hotter, drier summers fuel ever larger wildfires in the UK.”
A Government spokeswoman said the vast majority of fatalities and casualties come from water and rescue incidents, such as lakes and rivers, not flooding. She added: “Fire and rescue services are always ready to respond when people get into difficulty in water, and people should stay away from swollen rivers, take care by the coast, and always follow the advice of the emergency services.”