Fire service warning as crews attend 25 call-outs at derelict buildings during lockdown
Firefighters are calling on building owners to keep their premises safe following a rise in call-outs to derelict and unoccupied properties.
Crews from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) have attended 25 incidents at derelict buildings in the five months since lockdown restrictions were introduced at the end of March due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
And now, the service is warning building owners about the risk of fires at their properties – and reminding them of their responsibilities under the law.
Over the weekend, firefighters were called out twice to an unoccupied building at Mulgrave Terrace in Gateshead.
Richie Rickaby, Area Manager for Community Safety at TWFRS, detailed some of the challenges crews face while attending incidents in derelict buildings.
He said: “Fires in unoccupied or derelict buildings can present problems to firefighters that don’t occur in occupied premises such as an unsafe structure due to vandalism, aging and decay, the removal of internal fittings including stairs and doorways, or if there have previously been small fires leaving hazardous conditions.
“These buildings also offer an opportunity for people, including children, to enter, exposing themselves to the dangers within. These hazards can have serious consequences, potentially resulting in severe or even fatal injuries.
“Where we assess that there is an undue risk of harm from entering an empty building, a decision may be taken to fight a fire from outside only.
"Potentially, this could result in increased damage to the building from fire, smoke and water and a greater impact on the environment due to prolonged firefighting activities.”
Those responsible for such properties are also being reminded of the importance of a Fire Risk Assessment to keep the building safe.
Elements of a suitable assessment could include:
*Regular building inspections to ensure security
*Removal of any combustible materials from around the perimeter of the site
*Record of any incidents or damage along with actions taken to remedy such damage
*Securing external doors
*If you are a building owner in Gateshead, South Tyneside or Sunderland and need advice, contact TWFRS on 0191 444 1249/1264.