MINIMISING the risk of fires in homes, industrial units, hotels, guest houses and care homes will be among the priorities of the region’s fire service for the next five years.

The list of risks has been outlined by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service as it launches its community risk management plan.

Every fire and rescue service in England is requires to produce such a plan in order to assess the main risks facing communities and how they should be managed.

In addition to fires, the service also expects to handle many situations involving transport, such as road traffic collisions.

Among other identified risks are hazardous materials and possible major emergencies.

In the Devon and Somerset area there were 31 fire-related deaths in homes between 2015 and 2020 with 402 serious injuries.

In the same period the service dealt with 4,893 household fires; a figure which has fallen in recent years.

The risk of large commercial, industrial and agricultural fires is also seen as an area of concern.

Business insolvency is at record levels across the UK and in 2019, 5,625 businesses closed in the Devon and Somerset area; 9.2 percent of all enterprises.

The impact of covid means that there is potential for arson and commercial fraud to increase.

The Association of British Insurers estimates that 29 per cent of all commercial fire claims in the UK can be considered as ‘deliberate’.

During the five-year period from April 2015 to March 2020, there were 618 commercial fires in Devon and Somerset resulting in one death and 11 serious injuries.

Chief fire officer Lee Howell said: ‘Devon and Somerset are great places to live, with a diverse mix of rural, coastal, urban cities, and small market towns.

‘But this also creates a range of different risks that may lead to an emergency, which we will need to respond to; but will ideally like to prevent happening in the first place.

‘Risks change over time. Some things we can predict, are the increase in the use of electric cars for example, and we will review this strategic plan annually to identify any emerging trends.

“The covid-19 pandemic has shown us that change can happen unexpectedly. I’m really proud of how we, and our partners, including other emergency services, adapted during this time to keep the public safe. We have learnt much over the last two years and will increasingly use community partnerships moving forward to support our prevention-first approach.

‘Our community risk management plan will focus our work over the next five years on reducing the likelihood of incidents and being able to respond effectively when we are needed.’

In addition to preventing and tackling fires, the fire service also deals with road traffic collisions.

Devon and Somerset Fire Service has a network of over 13,160 miles of roads; most of which 90.4 per cent are smaller, rural roads and country lanes. Only 1.7 per cent are major roads.

During the five-year period from April 2015 to March 2020, the fire service attended 5,555 road traffic collisions.

These incidents resulted in 2,835 people being killed or seriously injured

However, there has been a downward trend and forecasts suggest this is likely to continue over the coming years.

Devon and Somerset Fire Service say they also recognise the need to identify emerging and future risks and trends across the region’s communities and to fire service staff.

In considering future risks the service will take into account electric vehicles and potential ‘self-drive’ vehicles, domestic and commercial battery energy storage systems, biomass fuel plants and the government’s agenda for renewable energy, modern building construction methods, future pandemics and increasing use of e-cigarettes.

Devon and Somerset Fire Service says it will collaborate with other fire and rescue services, the National Fire Chiefs Council and other blue light partners to reduce risks in the future.