A record number of deaths and injuries were caused by flooding and other water emergencies in Lancashire last year, figures show.
The Fire Brigades Union said the effects of climate change mean it is “no surprise” that flood deaths also hit a record high across England, as it called on the Government to boost firefighters’ resources for such incidents.
Home Office data shows that in Lancashire, 31 deaths or injuries occurred in incidents where firefighters were called to flooding or other water emergencies in 2019-20.
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This was the highest number since comparable records began in 2010-11, and up from 20 in 2018-19.
Figures reveal that last year’s incidents involved four deaths, 19 hospitalisations, two in which a casualty required first aid and six where precautionary checks were carried out.
Across England, there were 111 deaths, 274 hospitalisations and 422 injuries overall – all of which were the highest on record.
Of the 17,505 flooding incidents last year, 13 per cent occurred in February, when Storms Dennis and Ciara brought the wettest conditions for the month since records began in England and Wales.
The FBU said it was “long past time” the Government gave fire crews in England a statutory duty to respond to flooding – as is already the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This would ensure that flood risks were fully assessed, and the necessary resources made available to tackling major flooding, it argues.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Last winter saw firefighters respond to two major bouts of devastating flooding and it’s sadly no surprise that flood deaths, injuries, and hospitalisations all reached record highs.
“The Government needs to recognise that these incidents are only becoming more frequent and more damaging with climate change – just as, at the other end of the scale, hotter, drier summers fuel ever larger wildfires in the UK.
“Moreover, we need a total reshaping of our economy to drive down carbon emissions and prevent further flooding disasters – but that must go hand in hand with funding and resources for the firefighters on the frontline of the climate emergency.”
A Government spokeswoman said the vast majority of fatalities and casualties come from water and rescue incidents, such as lakes and rivers, not flooding.
She added: “Our condolences go to anyone who has lost a loved one in these tragic circumstances.
“Fire and rescue services are always ready to respond when people get into difficulty in water, and people should stay away from swollen rivers, take care by the coast, and always follow the advice of the emergency services during flooding.”
Alongside the four flooding and water deaths, the Home Office figures show there were a further 58 fatalities in non-fire incidents recorded by the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service in 2019-20.
Of those, 31 were recorded in incidents where the fire service was assisting another agency, and two while helping another emergency service gaining access to a property.
A further death was by suicide, while two occurred in medical incidents, and 13 in car accidents.