LOCAL firefighters saved 15 people in the area from blazes in the last year thanks to an improved response rate, according to a new report.

The performance of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) in West Dunbartonshire during 2017-18 was highlighted in figures presented to the management board of Community Planning West Dunbartonshire.

And while the number of fires and overall incidents in the area between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018 fell compared to the previous 12 months, the number of “special services” calls, fire and non-fire casualties, and false alarm calls, all increased.

The board were told primary and secondary fires had reduced by 28 per cent and total number of incidents reduced by 11 per cent.

However, special services required went up by 8 per cent, fire and non-fire casualties increased by 63 per cent and false alarms jumped 7 per cent.

Jim McNeil, local senior officer for West Dunbartonshire with the SFRS, said: “Our overall response rates to incidents in the past year was six to eight minutes and as a result 15 people in that time saw Christmas and could book their holidays.”

“The Local Fire and Rescue Service Plan has been developed to set out the priorities and objectives within West Dunbartonshire and allows our local authority partners to scrutinise the performance outcomes of these priorities.

“We will continue to work closely with our partners in West Dunbartonshire to ensure we are all ‘working together for a safer Scotland’ through targeting risks to our communities at a local level.

“Through partnership working we will seek to deliver continuous improvement in our performance and effective service delivery in our area of operations.”

The local fire and rescue plan for West Dunbartonshire identified six areas for demand reduction and is subject to regular monitoring and reporting through the area’s police and fire and rescue committee.

In the past year there were 133 accidental house fires in West Dunbartonshire, a two per cent increase on the previous year.

There were 15 casualties in those fires, up 36 per cent on the previous 12 months.

There were 366 incidents of wilful fire-raising in the area in the year, a 37 per cent fall on the previous year.

But there were also 462 false alarms.

During 2017/18, firefighters were called out to 1,443 incidents in the West Dunbartonshire area.

Of the domestic fires in the area, four out of 10 were caused by distractions in the kitchen, while almost one in five – 18 per cent – were put down to alcohol and drug impairment.

Mr McNeil added: “There have been four fundamental changes in the SFRS with regards to the response to any counter terrorism.

“I was head of incident command in a previous role so I have experience in how to deliver an effective response.”