Dozens died in fires in 2012 despite fire alarms'

Nearly half of fire deaths in buildings in 2010 happened in a property with a working smoke alarm, figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast show.

The deaths accounted for 157 of the 340 people killed in UK property fires.

The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information requests from 54 out of 57 fire services.

The Fire Brigades Union said fire alarms had helped to reduce fatalities but the figures showed it was wrong to cut back on firefighters.

More than 80% of buildings now have smoke alarms fitted.

Rob Davies, community safety officer for West Midlands fire and rescue service, said a smoke alarm could only give early warning in event of a fire.

"About 60% of house fires are caused by fires in the kitchen. But when you come onto fatalities and fire deaths, it's slightly different. In fact, with 40% of fire fatalities there has been some involvement with alcohol."

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said it was crucial to remember that firefighters rescued 7,000 people a year from fires.

"Smoke alarms are not and cannot be a replacement for firefighters. Too many fire services have used the fitting of smoke alarms to justify cuts to their local fire service, and these figures show why that is very wrong."

Sheila Merrill, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said many people who had died had not heard alarms as they had been in a deep sleep due to medication or alcohol.

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 BBC NEWS “Dozens died in fires in 2010 'despite fire alarms'