18 August 2016
The number of people dying in fire-related incidents in England has reached its highest number in 20 years according to new data published by the Home Office this week.
The data shows that 303 people died in fires in 2015-16, a 15% increase (39 people) on the previous 12 months, reports the BBC.
The figures also show that in 2015-16 fire services across England attended around 162,000 fires, a 7,000 jump from the previous year.
The Home Office said the rise in the number of deaths is due to an increase in the number of accidental fires taking place in people's homes, along with an increase in the number of fatal fires involving aircraft.
Fire services in Cambridgeshire and Cumbria had the highest fatality rates, prompting fears that there was a geographic disparity in the likelihood of dying in a fire incident.
Last year, the fire and rescue services in Cambridgeshire and Cumbria had the highest fatality rates with 25 deaths occurring for every 1,000 primary fires.
In comparison, the England average was seven deaths per 1,000 fires.
Cameron Matthews, the Secretary of the Cambridge Fire Brigade's Union, described the figures as "heartbreaking" speaking to the BBC.
"It’s just not right that we now in effect have a postcode lottery.
"Here in Cambridgeshire we've had some of the highest percentage cuts in the country to our budget. We've lost experienced firefighters and it is quite clear that the government's cuts are now resulting in lives being lost."
A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service told the BBC: "We have not made any cuts impacting on our frontline service to date and so no correlation can be made.
"The number of fire deaths does fluctuate year on year but always remains in low single figures.
“We have the fifth lowest number of dwelling fires in the country out of all fire and rescue services and that is a good, positive story."