Yesterday the Fire Authority received a document reviewing the long term fire trends for Greater London. Bringing together data from the creation of Greater London in 1965 to the present day, the report paints a fascinating picture of how the capital has changed over almost half a century.
In 1966 Greater London's population was around 7.8 million, having declined from some 8.6 million in 1939, at the outbreak of the war. Numbers continued to decline, reaching 6.7 million in 1988 - a year after I moved here - but then started to climb, achieving 7.5 million in 2007. The idea that London is more populous than at any time in its history is therefore incorrect, however there are other social trends which arguably have a greater impact.
The number of households - unlike the population - has steadily increased over the same period from 2.2 million in 1966 to 3.1 million in 2008, driving the demand for development and urbanisation. Behind these figures are large numbers of single parent families and people who live alone. I have always thought there was scope for someone to lobby on behalf of single Londoners, and these figures demonstrate the growth of this important group.
In 1976 the number of fires peaked at 63,524, declining to just 29,735 at the end of 2008 - the lowest total since 1965. The number of fires per year has fallen steadily since 2003. Fire deaths in 2008 (46) were less than a quarter of the numbers suffered in 1980 (196), which is very good news although of course the numbers don't yet include the recent Lakanal House tragedy.
In 1966 the London Fire Brigade responded to more than 10 chimney fires but by 2008 clean air legislation and the decline of coal as an energy source meant that only one such fire occurred every three to four days.
In 1966 50% of all the incidents attended by the Brigade were fires. In 2008 only 20% of callouts relate to fires. Much more time is spent responding to road accidents, flooding and people trapped in lifts.