Malicious fires at care facilities revealed

Several of the fires occurred in the victinty of Altnagelvin.
Several of the fires occurred in the victinty of Altnagelvin.

There were 11 malicious fires at Western Trust health and care facilities last year, including two at children’s homes in Derry and a third at Gransha Hospital.

The latter involved a deliberate ignition in the Cedar part of Gransha, which deals with male and female patients with enduring mental health issues.

There was another malicious fire within the grounds of the Nurses’ Home at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Information obtained by the Journal under the Freedom of Information Act show that there was also eight accidental fires in the Western Trust area over the financial year to April 2014.

In one episode at Ward 20 of Altnagelvin there was a fire sparked by a swing arm light which was situated beside a chair.

At the Tower’s 5th Floor bed lobby there was another fire when a contractor drilled into an electrical cable back in January 2014.

An electronic cigarette charger meanwhile was responsible for a fire at Riverview Social Services, while faulty equipment caused an ignition at a compressor in Strabane Health Centre.

Episodes of arson were recorded at Racecourse Road Children’s Home and Galliagh Children’s Home in 2013, and there were also two incidents of malicious fires at The Cottage, at Whitehill in the Waterside.

There were also malicious fires recorded at other children’s homes in Omagh and Enniskillen over the course of the year to April 2014.

Thousands of Trust staff members have now been trained in fire safety, while £1m has been spent on improving fire safety at Altnagelvin Hospital.

The Trust Western Health Trust’s Fire Saferty Report 2013/14 states that the 19 recorded fire incidents represented a 24% reduction on the previous year, while targets for staff training, risk assessment surveys and audits have all been exceeded locally.

It also details how the Western Trust have invested £1m in safety works at Altnagelvin Tower Block.

The money was split equally between two projects, one of which involved the installation of two new evacuation lifts.

The other involved fire safety improvement work to aid evacuation and refuge, including the building of protected lobbies to evacuation lifts, and work on stairwells.

The investment is detailed in documents obtained by the Journal under the Freedom of Information Act relating to the year 2013/14

A spokesperson for the Trust confirmed that 6,562 staff and 601 nominated fire officers were trained in fire safety over the year.

As well as the 19 real fires, there were also 289 false alarms during the year, down from 431 the previous year. A Trust spokesperson said these were monitored monthly, and discussed regularly with the Fire & Rescue Service “to identify and agree mitigating actions to prevent recurrence.”

The authors of the 2013/14 Western Trust Fire Safety Report concluded: “Overall, significant progress has been made in relation to achieving and maintaining acceptable fire safety standards; and with the continued commitment of management and investment in fire precautions, fire safety management and arrangements across Trust will continue to improve.”