Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Blow out that candle: Finland and fire

I just heard a siren and that reminded me of a story I saw a week ago in Helsingin Sanomat that had grabbed my attention. It's something that I had noticed over the last year or so: that there seems to be an awful lot of fatal fires in Finland. I had wondered whether this was really the case, or rather whether it is just a reflection of the fact that Finland is - in the nicest possible sense - a very boring country where nothing much exciting happens. If the latter was true, you could expect that the media to pay disproportionate attention to fire stories because they don't have so much else to report. But the Helsingin Sanomat article actually contained figures, so I thought I would try and compare them to the UK. My methodology doesn't extend much beyond "use Google", but for what's it worth here goes:
  • in 2005, 81 Finns died in fires.
  • in 2006 the projected figure is 110-115.
  • in 2005, 379 English people died in fires.
  • the population of Finland is approx. 5,231,000.
  • the population of England is approx. 49,139,000.
So the English population is nine and a half times bigger than Finland's, yet the number of people dying in fires is only about four and half times bigger in England. So even with my hopelessly poor maths its seems you're have a much greater chance of dying in a fire in Finland than in England.

I have absolutely no idea why this might be: less population density so further between fire stations? Wooden houses? Great fire fighters in the UK? Alcohol consumption patterns? Shoddy Finnish electrics? Who knows - but if you have any ideas, please leave a comment.


Anonymous said...

and most of the fires in finland start from candles... So this combined with the dark (that makes you want to light anything, even candels), the distance between the fire stations and the alcohol?

Ps. Your 15 minutes of fame where worth listening to...!

Tony said...

In Finland the air is very dry in winter. It also contains a lot of airbourne dust. I'm told that these dust particles can cause short circuits to old fuse boards and electrical heaters. Apparently this leads to lots of fires in farm houses and cattle sheds where the electrics may be older or not installed by electricians. I also heard that in old buildings the electric wires are insulated with paper!

Carolyn Coote said...

Am planning on visiting Finland in 2007 hope I can jump over the candlestick and not knock it over...should be there in summer though. What are the must see sights and must do activities?

Dave C said...

I wonder how those figures would compare with Australia, a country that is acutely conscious of fire danger (particularly in a hyper-dry year like this one has been here.)