SCOTLAND’s firefighters are calling on communities to help stop preventable deaths in house fires – by making a five-minute phone call.

Make the Call is a hard-hitting appeal to carers, family, friends and of those who are at risk of serious injury or even death because of an accidental fire in their home.

The latest statistics show that more than 20 people who are over the age of 50, smoke and also either live alone, have mobility issues or use medical oxygen have already been injured, some seriously, by such fires between January 1 and April 30 this year. Tragically, 12 of those people passed away.

SFRS is now appealing to communities across Scotland to help save a life and consider home fire safety when checking in on vulnerable neighbours, patients, friends and family members during lockdown and to put them in touch with SFRS wherever possible using the free Home Fire Safety Visit phoneline.

Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens said: “These tragic deaths, and the injuries suffered by others, are often completely preventable.  We investigate every fire that we attend, to understand, how the fire started and developed, how could it have been avoided and could it have been prevented entirely.

“The answer is all too often yes, that fire could have been prevented, and that person would have avoided injury or sadly, death.  But the greatest challenge for us has always been reaching the most vulnerable people in our communities to make sure they have the life-saving advice and support that they need.

“That is why we are issuing a nationwide call to action – if you know someone who is over 50 and smokes and lives alone, has mobility issues or uses medical oxygen– we need you to help us reach them.

“Make the call to us and we can ensure that the people who may be at risk get the fire safety advice and support that they need to help them stay safe in the home during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.”

The national campaign has been launched following the sharp increase in the number of people who have passed away following fires in homes across Scotland.

Many of the people who passed away were not known to the SFRS which can offer guidance, advice and free Home Fire Safety Visits to carers and family or directly to those at greatest risk.

Advice or a visit can be sought through the national phoneline – a five-minute process which will see the caller receive a return call from their local fire station to offer advice, or where appropriate, a physical visit.

ACO Stevens said: “There has been a rise in the number of people who have died because of fires in the home, and while such increases are not unprecedented, we must reach out now to prevent further tragedy. We are clearly seeing that the people who are at greatest risk may already be living alone, isolated and we are not in touch with them.

“During lockdown there is a real opportunity to change that, as so many people are already reaching out to neighbours and family to check on them and ensure they have shopping and supplies – particularly if that person is shielding.

“We know that they are at risk, but we don’t know who they are or where they are. You might, however, and you can put us in touch with them.

“If you are a carer or family then you can refer them to us on their behalf – if you are a neighbour or a concerned friend you must ask them for their consent before you refer them.

“Call them, check in with them if you can and adhere to social distancing guidelines, and encourage them to seek our advice or ask if you can call us on their behalf – our staff are trained and equipped to offer the best advice possible.”

SFRS had suspended its free Home Fire Safety Visit initiative during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic to support virus suppression, and protect communities and staff from the risk of infection. However, following the launch of the Make the Call campaign, the service will carry out limited and targeted visits to those most at risk from fire in their homes.

ACO Stevens said: “We take the safety of our communities and crews very seriously, and we have taken every precaution to ensure that our staff use the correct personal protective equipment to visit homes and apply appropriate guidelines and procedures to ensure that they and the members of the public in the house adhere to social distancing guidelines

“Each visit will be subject to a risk assessment first, and where a visit is not possible, due to coronavirus guidelines or other reasons, we can offer tailored advice over the phone and guide a carer, family member or the person themselves through a virtual home fire safety visit. But to do that, we need you to Make the Call, and put them in touch with us.”

Anyone who wants to book a free Home Fire Safety Visit can call 0800 731 999 or text ‘fire’ to 80800.