THE borough's elderly residents have been urged to take advantage of free home safety checks from West Midlands Fire Service this winter.

People over 65 who live on their own are at greater risk from fire and the risk goes up as they get older, especially if they smoke, drink alcohol or have underlying medical conditions.

Figures show that most fire-related deaths occur in the winter months, with causes including smoking in bed, using propane heaters or cookers and leaving food unattended during cooking.

Pete Wilson, the service's head of community safety, said: “As much as elderly people value their independence, there comes a time when age makes us all more vulnerable to fire.

“Some older people don’t like to ask for help, and can even see it as a sign of weakness. Relatives, friends and carers can play a vital role in spotting any risks, and calling us to help minimise them.

“It’s important that we all have working smoke alarms in our homes. Our firefighters carry out Home Safety Checks and know the best place to fit alarms, and they can give a wide range of advice on how the elderly can stay as safe as possible at home.”

To arrange a home check, call 0800 389 5525.