Conference presentation

Communities, inequality and fire

Institute of Fire Engineers R&D conference: RE14
Fire Services College
November 13, 2014


Not everyone is at equal risk from fire. Studies have consistently identified factors associated with lower socio-economic status as markers of a higher risk of suffering loss as a result of an accidental fire. Preliminary analysis of incident data from the West Midlands Fire Service appears consistent with these past studies, demonstrating striking links between the rate of fire incidence and neighbourhood deprivation. Whilst fire safety interventions in recent times have been successful in dramatically reducing the incidence of accidental fire, a fundamental inequality in the distribution of fires persists.

One reason for this inequality may lie in the nature of the relationship between the fire service and the communities it serves. For a variety of reasons many deprived communities have developed distrust of any agency that is associated with the state. There is evidence that this distrust extends to the fire service and may hamper efforts to communicate the fire safety message. A deeper understanding of the nature of this relationship, and the effect that the culture, structure and behaviour of the service and the wider state have on the relationship, is essential if the inequality of service outcomes is to be addressed.