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19 October 2016
More people are being killed in fires in Scotland and the number of blazes is also on the rise, according to new figures.
The Scotland Herald reports that a total of 45 people across the country were killed in fires in 2015/16, four more than in 2014/15.
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) report revealed the fire fatality rate in Scotland in 2015/16 is higher than England and Wales at 8.4 deaths per million of population, compared to 5.5 and 6.1 respectively.
The service warned the relatively small numbers involved make the fire fatality rate "a volatile measure" and added that in the past decade the rate has been higher in Scotland than the rest of Britain.
The number of fires attended across Scotland has also increased in the same period, up 6%, or 1,588 incidents, to 26,613.
The data from the fire service also showed that more than half of the incidents firefighters are called out to are false alarms (56%) and hoax false alarm calls are also increasing - to 2,375 in 2015/16 compared to 2,058 the previous year.
A total of 5% of false alarms were malicious while 77% were due to automatic calls from fire alarms or equipment.
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur told the Herald: "The fire service has lost 1,000 staff since the SNP's centralisation and, combined with their attending 4,000 more incidents last year, more malicious calls is something that they could really do without.
"SFRS officers are responding to more fires and playing an important role in other incidents where lives are at risk.
"Malicious calls prevent the SFRS responding to genuine emergencies. We should be blunt about this - these calls are putting lives in danger."
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "While the total number of fires responded to in 2015/16 was the second lowest in a decade, it was the second consecutive year we've seen fire incidents rise and we expect the SFRS to take action as needed to understand and manage any emerging upward trend.
"Every life lost is a tragedy and SFRS is committed to building on the vital prevention and protection work it already carries out on a daily basis.
"Firefighters respond to every single emergency call and the service has worked closely with the Fire Brigades Union to achieve the right level of staffing to meet the needs of a modern service, with a greater emphasis on prevention."