South Tynesiders are putting their families lives at risk by failing to have smoke alarms fitted, a fire chief has warned.
Shocking figures released by the fire service showed that 412 of 1,200 homes visited last year across South Shields didn’t have working smoke detectors – more than a third.
And since April 1, 116 out of 200 properties visited by firefighters needed smoke alarms fitted – more than half.
Ray Craig, watchmanager at South Shields Fire Station, said the issue was a matter of life and death.
He told the Gazette: “It is alarming the number of homes we are still coming across where there is no working smoke detector.
“A lot of people will fork out for a burglar alarm because they are worried about being burgled but yet fail to have a smoke alarm.
“If your house is burgled and a TV or your PlayStation goes missing, you can replace them but you cannot replace a life.
“When carrying out checks on homes we have found people have taken batteries out of smoke alarms or failed to check smoke alarms are working – you might as well stick a brick on your ceiling if that’s the case.
“Of people who lose their lives in a fire, nine out of 10 of them haven’t had a working smoke alarm.
“Having a smoke alarm gives you so much early warning to a fire which will give you a chance to get your family out of the house.
“Having a working smoke alarm could mean the difference between life and death.”
Mr Craig also urged South Tynesiders to test their smoke detectors weekly.
According to national fire service statistics, people are four times more likely to die in a fire if there is no working smoke alarm installed while 21 people die each year because the battery in their smoke alarm was flat or missing.
“The earlier we are alerted to a fire the quicker we can be on the scene tackling it.
“People should be testing their alarms at least once a week.”
Every year, each watch covering the South Tyneside area are tasked with carrying out visits to 300 homes to deliver home fire safety checks - which includes the fitting of smoke detectors and offering fire safety advice.
Talks are also delivered to youngsters in schools on the importance of fire safety.
Mr Craig said: “If there is a fire in the property people need to be getting out and contacting us, not tackling the fire themselves.
“If your living room is on fire, it can be re-decorated, if you injure yourself trying to put out a fire yourself, you could end up scarred for life.
“Fighting fires is our job, fire burns and smoke kills that’s why we wear breathing apparatus and protective clothing. People need to be getting out, staying out and calling 999.”