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Fire officers back minister’s smoke alarms in rented homes announcement

South Yorkshire fire officers have welcomed the announcement that the government plans to introduce vital life-saving legislation on smoke alarms in rented properties ahead of the General Election.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue called for new laws requiring smoke alarms to be fitted in all privately rented homes, following the death of a young child in Conisbrough.

Libby-Jayne Hornsby, aged two, died after a fire at a rented property on Don Street, Conisbrough, Doncaster in October 2013. Fire investigators found no evidence of working smoke alarms inside the property, an inquest heard last year.

Campaigning on this issue, which will also require privately rented homes to be fitted with carbon monoxide detectors, has been led nationally by the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA).

Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt MP, speaking at the Local Government Association conference in Gateshead, said:

“Fire and rescue authorities will be very pleased that tenants in the private sector are to be given the protection from fire that they need. We will be working with them, and with the Chief Fire Officers Association, to make the transition for landlords as smooth as possible.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Area Manager Phil Shillito, said: “The lack of legislation requiring smoke alarms to be fitted in privately rented properties was highlighted at Libby’s inquest. Although we will never know for sure if smoke alarms would have made a difference at that incident, fire services nationally have been campaigning on this critical issue for some time, so it’s excellent that all that hard work has paid off.”

Preparations for the new powers requiring landlords to fit detectors in private rented homes have been completed, so the legislation will now be laid before parliament before the end of this parliamentary session.

The government’s own impact assessment suggested that over 200 lives could be saved nationally over the next 10 years by the introduction of this legislation. The draft new laws would be enacted by the Government as part of the Energy Act, which was given Royal Assent in December 2013.

Dramatic blaze rescue prompts top fire service bravery gong

Members of the public who helped rescue a man from a serious flat fire have been awarded the fire service’s highest honour.

When a fire broke out at a flat on Carr Road, Deepcar, Sheffield on 22 December 2013, two members of the public Zoe Evans and Mathew Evans were driving past and noticed blackened windows and smoke issuing from the flat.  The pair went to investigate and discovered the flat on fire with a man trapped inside and unable to find his keys to unlock the door.

Zoe quickly called 999 and alerted her stepfather Paul Bennett, who arrived moments later.  Paul and Mathew were able to kick the door down and lead the man to safety before extinguishing the blaze with buckets of water.

Now all three members of the public have been awarded the Chief Fire Officer’s Commendation – the highest fire service award for displaying outstanding bravery, quick thinking and placing their own safety at risk to carry out this life saving rescue.  They were presented with their certificate at a formal ceremony in front of fire crews, family and friends at South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Rivelin fire station in Sheffield.

Mathew Evans said; “We got out of the car and went to have a look, we knocked on the door and realised it was a lot worse than we thought. There was that much smoke we just thought we had to do something.”

Paul Bennett said; “We opened the kitchen window and saw the chap inside. We went round the back and kicked in the door.  We just knew we had to get him out”.

Zoe Evans said; “I just remember seeing smoke and telling Mat there was a fire. I was scared for Mat and Paul – there was thick, black smoke.  But I’m glad they did it and today has been brilliant.”

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Shaw, said: “Had it not been for the combined efforts of these three brave people, this fire could easily have resulted in a fatality.

“Our advice to the public in the event of a fire is to get out and stay out until we arrive on the scene.  However, we recognise that in exceptional circumstances such as this one, acts of bravery are appropriate and should be recognised as such.”