THE Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has appealed for public support in its bid to protect elderly people in the local community from the dangers of fire.
The plea comes following a sudden increase in fatal accidental house fires across Northern Ireland over the past few months, which have tragically claimed the lives of several elderly people, including Rathcoole pensioner Billy Meek.
David Heyburn, NIFRS Glengormley District Commander, said: “It is an unspeakable tragedy that so many elderly people have lost their lives in accidental house fires recently, and it has struck at the very heart of the Fire & Rescue Service, as we have all dedicated our lives to protecting our community.
“We are all family people ourselves and our thoughts remain very much with all of the families who have been left devastated from the deaths of these very vulnerable people.”
He continued: “I want to assure the public that we are doing everything we possibly can do out there on the ground; our firefighters are out there working as tirelessly as ever to ensure that elderly people in particular are kept safe from the dangers of fire in their homes.
“We have been heavily targeting our community education and engagement activities right across Northern Ireland and prioritising our free Home Fire Safety Checks for the over 65’s. We have also been meeting with partner agencies to identify if there are any further measures we can take over and above all the work we are currently doing, because we believe that by working together we can save more lives.”
The District Commander stressed that one life lost is one too many and said the Fire Service needs the community’s help to protect elderly and vulnerable people.
“I am personally urging people again to take some time to check in with their elderly neighbours, elderly family members or elderly friends and consider their fire safety.
“Check that they have a smoke alarm and test it for them to ensure it is working. Check their home for fire safety hazards and take time to explain to them the importance of a bed time fire safety routine, a fire escape plan and make sure they know who to contact in an emergency.
“I would also urge people to avail of our free Home Fire Safety Checks for them. By doing this local firefighters will check their home to help make it fire safe. They will check for people at risk, appliances that could cause fire, help with any actions to avoid fire and most importantly check that a smoke alarm is working. If necessary we will fit a free smoke alarm for them,” he added.
For more information, or to arrange a free Home Fire Safety Check, telephone 028 9260 0477 or log on to www.nifrs.org