FIREFIGHTERS in Oxfordshire were called to a record low number of fires last year, figures reveal.

It comes amid a national rise in the number of incidents not involving fires, including flooding events, which the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says indicates crews are “battling the sharp end of climate change”.

Home Office data shows Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service responded to 1,435 fires in 2019-20.

That was a 12 per cent decrease on the 1,624 attended in 2018-19, and the lowest number since comparable records began a decade earlier.

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Meanwhile, firefighters were called to 1,816 non-fire incidents last year – down five per cent on the year before.

Non-fire incidents are classed as anything other than fires and false alarms, including flooding incidents, road traffic collisions, animal assistance as well as suicide attempts, people being stranded, trapped, impaled and dealing with hazardous substances among others.

Across England and Wales, fire crews responded to 172,000 incidents of this kind in 2019-20 – a six per cent rise compared to 2018-19, and 12 per cent compared to a decade ago.

Figures show the latest increase has been driven by crews attending more flooding and multi-agency incidents, which involve other emergency services.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We have seen a significant increase in flooding incidents, likely linked to the mass flooding emergencies across the country over last winter.

“Widespread flooding in the last year and recent wildfires have shown that firefighters are battling the sharp end of climate change.

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“Their work should be properly recognised with a statutory duty to respond to floods in England and the proper funding of their service.”

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was called to 6,199 incidents last year in total, with fires making up just 23 per cent of these.

Nationally, crews responded to 557,299 callouts, a three per cent drop compared to the previous year.

An agreement reached in March allowed firefighters to drive ambulances and deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable as the coronavirus crisis took hold.

It was extended in June, meaning such activity will continue until the end of September at the earliest.

Mr Wrack added: “Firefighters have always taken on a range of non-fire work and can be proud of stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic, all while still responding to fires and other emergencies.”

Statistics also show that Oxfordshire firefighters carried out hundreds fewer safety checks on buildings last year compared with a decade ago.

Home Office data shows the fire service completed 375 fire safety audits on buildings in 2019-20.

This was 214 fewer than the 589 inspections recorded in 2010-11.