Provisional figures from the Scottish Government have shown a rise in fire deaths, despite a 17% reduction in the total number of fires.
Figures for 2011-12 show that there were 57 fatalities, an increase of 5 on the previous year. The total number of fires fell to 32,204, down from 38,970 in 2010-11.
Primary fires – that is all fires in non-derelict buildings and outdoor structures, fires involving casualties or rescues or any fires with more than five appliances in attendance – account for 39% of fires, with the remaining 58% being classed as secondary fires.
The figures were compiled by Scotland’s chief statistician and the news that fatalities in Scotland has risen in the last financial year is likely to cause concern as the Scottish Government continue preparations for the establishment of a single Scottish Fire Service.
However the figure of 57 is still the third lowest of the last ten years.
The leading cause of fatal fires was smoking materials with 21 of the 47 deaths (45%) in accidental dwelling fires as a result of ‘smokers’ materials and matches’.
Accidental dwelling fires overall were down to a ten year low of 5,116 with 17% as a result of impairment due to suspected alcohol and/or drugs use.
Roseanna Cunningam, community safety minister, said: "It is thanks to the work of fire and rescue services - which I have seen fantastic examples of in schools, workplaces and communities - that house fires are continuing to decrease across Scotland and lives are being saved.
"It is a tragedy however that lives continue to be lost to fire every year. Every death is devastating and underlines that we all need to be on our guard against the risks.
"Once again, alcohol and/or drugs were suspected to have been a factor in at least one in six accidental house fires.
"Although other key figures in this publication indicate an improving awareness of the danger of fire in our homes, this underlines that a link remains between alcohol, drug use and fire.”
Higher casualty rate than England and Wales
Overall, the figures show that despite some encouraging signs, including the reduction in number of accidental house fires, the rate of fatal casualties per million remains higher than in England and Wales.
Although the 2011-12 figures for England and Wales are not yet available, the rate of fatal fire deaths per million in 2010-11 was 10 in Scotland, compared to 6.3 and 7 in England and Wales.
Scottish residents are being reminded of the dangers of smoking, and of drugs and alcohol, as well as the importance of ensuring a working smoke alarm is present.
A shocking 34% of house fires in 2011-12 had no smoke alarm present, and a further 13% had a non-functioning alarm.
Ms. Cunningham added: "The most important message we can give is not to be complacent and always be on your guard. We also urge you to get a smoke alarm and check it regularly to ensure it is in working order."
The full fire statistics 2011-12 report is available on the Scottish Government website.