FIREFIGHTERS in Hereford and Worcester were called out to a "record number" of non fire-related incidents last year.

Home Office data shows Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service responded to 2,893 non-fire incidents in 2019-20.

That was a 44 per cent increase on the 2,012 attended in 2018-19, and the highest number since comparable records began a decade earlier.

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 6 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.

Meanwhile, firefighters were called to 1,726 fires last year – a record low, and down 22 per cent on the year before.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service was called to 7,957 incidents last year in total, with fires making up just 22 per cent of these.

Nationally, crews responded to 557,299 callouts, a 3 per cent drop compared to the previous year.

The Fire Brigades Union said it has seen a surge in widespread flooding nationally, as crews “battle the sharp end of climate change”.

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.

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

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."