Record rise in the costs of fire damage

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    The cost of fire damage now stands at a record level according to research published today by the ABI. In the first half of 2009, insurers paid out £639 million – £3.6 million every day – for damage caused by fires. This is the highest half yearly figure ever, and follows on from last year’s record high level of fire claim costs.

    Nick Starling, the ABI’s Director of General Insurance and Health, said : “The challenging economic climate is having a significant impact on the fire danger. While the numbers of fires may have been falling, the increase in large-scale fires is increasingly putting lives at risk, and puts more pressure on businesses in these already difficult trading times.”

    This disturbing picture emerges from the ABI’s analysis of fire trends launched today (10 December) at a reception at the House of Commons. ‘Tackling Fire: A call for Action’ highlights that:

    • Fire damage claims in the first half of 2009 cost £639 million – £3.6 million each day. This follows on from the £1.3 billion fire losses in 2008, a 16% rise on 2007 and the most expensive year ever.
    • Between 2002 and 2008 the cost of the average fire claim for both commercial and domestic fires doubled, to £21,000 and £8,000 respectively.
    • Arson, which tends to increase during a recession, accounts for half of all commercial fires. Socially deprived areas and schools are especially vulnerable: arson rates are 30 times higher in poorer areas.Twenty schools a week suffer an arson attack, disrupting the education of 90,000 schoolchildren, causing damage costing £65 million.
    • More open plan buildings, which allow more rapid spread of fire, and the increase in out of town developments, where fires can go for longer unnoticed, are among factors contributing to the doubling of fire costs since 2002.

    The ABI identifies two key steps needed to tackle spiralling fire costs which, if unchecked, will increasingly put lives at risk, and damage the economy:

    • A review of the case for making sprinklers mandatory in all new buildings, and
    • A zero tolerance approach to arson, through better co ordination and liaison between the Government, the fire services and other agencies, to improve the detection and prosecution of arsonists. The arson detection rate is only 8%, compared to 24% for other offences.

    Nick Starling added: “Our analysis shows grounds for concern over fire trends. The continued recession is likely to have a significant impact on the number and cost of fires, and potentially on the number of fire-related deaths and injuries. That is why we urge the Government, working with other stakeholders including the fire service the police and insurers, to adopt our proposals to reduce the impact of fire.”