EMERGENCY services in Inverclyde have launched a new drive to identify vulnerable people living alone following three fatal house fires.

Details of the effort emerged as Scottish Fire & Rescue Service group manager David McCarrey and station manager Mark Meehan attended a meeting of the Local Police and Fire Scrutiny Committee.

Councillor Jim MacLeod said he was saddened by the recent tragedies in Inverclyde, which involved vulnerable people in the community.

David McCarrey said: “Identifying the most vulnerable has always been a challenge for us.

“We don’t just expect people to be referred to us.

"If we see anything we pass it on to the relevant people, our staff need to be more than firefighters now.

"We still have more work to do with partners to identify people who need support but it is getting better and staff are getting more training.

“We work with the other agencies to keep people safe.”

Councillors thanked the emergency services for their efforts in responding to the fatal fires.

Greenock man Mr Alan Blair, 78, died after a blaze ripped through his home in Inverkip Road on December 28.

Mr Frank Sharp, 68, died in another house fire in Gourock's Albert Road hours later.

On February 10 a man died as a result of a fire in Finlaystone Crescent, Kilmacolm.

Scrutiny committee chair Councillor Tommy McVey said: “As a committee and a council we send our condolences to the families of the victims of the fatal fires and our thanks to the emergency services for their efforts.

"We were all very sorry to hear about the loss of life.”

In the wake of the house fire deaths committee members are urging members of the public to encourage people to arrange a free home fire safety visit.

Cllr MacLeod said: “Prevention is key and the fire service are really proactive. We all need to try and encourage people in the community to get a free safety fire check.”

Councillor McVey added: “The key message is to tell those in the community to seek advice, the fire service are here to help.”

A home fire safety visit takes around 20 minutes and staff can help spot possible fire hazards, offer advice and guidance and fit smoke alarms free of charge if required.

To book a visit contact 0800 0731 999.