Allianz’s multi-million pound loss at the burnt-out Penhallow Hotel in Newquay has reignited insurers’ demands for changes to the way fire brigades operate.

The Insurers’ Fire Research Strategy Funding Scheme (Infires) has warned that changes to the requirements for the inspection of commercial properties and falling response times from fire fighters is contributing to increasing financial losses from fires.

Infires intervention monitoring group convener David Sibert said: “The number of fires is the lowest for 30 years and the number of deaths is the lowest for 30 years, but the financial losses due to fires are higher than ever before.”

He said insurers had raised a number of issues with government. These included concerns that since brigade inspections of commercial properties were scrapped in October last year, owners were expected to carry out their own inspections.

Many owners chose unregulated consultants leading to concerns from insurers over their skill levels.

Sibert added that fire brigades were supposed to audit these self assessments, but were now recruiting fire safety officers direct rather than using experienced former fire-fighters.

Response times to fires, which were critical in saving property and reducing overall damage, were reducing for many commercial properties.

There was also a lack of retained (part-time) fire-fighters in rural, coastal, and non-urban areas.

Infires is chaired by Allianz Commercial general manager Chris Hanks.

Allianz insured the Penhallow Hotel for property, employers’ and public liability and business interruption.