More lives were lost to fires in the region last year despite a drop in the number of incidents attended by firefighters, new statistics show.

The situation in Herefordshire and Worcestershire mirrors that across England, with the chairman of the National Fire Chiefs Council saying he is “very concerned” by the national situation, and that fire services face “huge challenges”.

There were five fire-related deaths in Herefordshire and Worcestershire in the 12 months to September last year, Home Office figures show – all of them happening in homes. This was an increase of one on the year before.

It comes despite a 12 per cent decrease in the number of fires, with 1,873 recorded over the year.

The Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service crews were most often needed to attend small outdoor fires that didn’t involve people or property.

These secondary fires were responsible for 40 per cent of their fire-related callouts, but had decreased in number from the year before which the NFCC said was caused by a dry summer in 2018.

The number of casualties dropped to 71 in the 12 months to September – 52 per cent of which resulted in someone going to hospital.

Across England, crews attended 10 per cent fewer fires, but recorded more fatalities – there were 252 in 2019 compared with 251 the year before.

NFCC chairman Roy Wilsher said it was “pleasing” to see the reduction in the number of incidents but that it was essential they do not become complacent.

“However, I am very concerned to see the number of fatalities has increased over the same timeframe. I would like to see more information and as to why this is. Fire services are facing huge challenges when it comes to the built environment.

“This was abundantly clear from evidence given during the opening days of the second phase on the Grenfell Tower inquiry.”

He added that fire and rescue services are doing all they can to deal with two decades of building safety failure but the rise in fatalities was part of a worrying trend.

A Home Office spokesman said fire and rescue services will receive around £2.3 billion in 2019/20.

He added: “We are grateful for the continued tireless efforts of firefighters across the country, with fire and rescue services having the resources they need to do their important work.

“Fire-related fatalities remain at historically low levels, decreasing by a fifth in the last 10 years, and there has been major steps forward in prevention work.”