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Staffordshire Fire & Rescue Service - Preventing, Protecting, Responding

Fatal Fire Caused Accidentally

13/12/2010

Staffordshire’s Chief Fire Officer, has expressed his dismay at another fatal fire that could have been prevented. An investigation into a fire in which a 59 year old man died on Friday morning has established that the fire was caused accidentally.

"If we’d have had prior access to the house, we could have ensured the fire was adequately covered, advised the man about his smoking and drinking and re-fitted the smoke alarms in more appropriate positions. If we’d had that opportunity, he might still be alive today."

Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive, Peter Dartford

The fire on Branston Road, Burton involved a ground floor flat and firefighters found the deceased in the living room on the sofa. They took him outside and attempts were made to resuscitate him but he was unfortunately pronounced dead at the scene.

A fire investigation has established that the most likely cause was either smoking materials not being disposed of appropriately, with alcohol also being a contributing factor, or the fact that the man had removed the fire guard from his gas fire and slept on the sofa which had been pushed up too close to the fire. The damage was so severe the exact cause will never be known.

Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Peter Dartford said: "This is the ninth fatal fire we’ve had in Staffordshire since the start of the year and again this incident involved an older person living on their own. We are constantly trying to raise awareness of the importance of fire safety amongst older people but it seems the message isn’t being listened to.

"In this incident, the man was a heavy smoker and drinker and so a discarded cigarette may have been the cause. Also the man had apparently complained to neighbours that he was cold and fire investigation officers found the protective guard on the gas fire had been removed, leaving the whole fire open, which may also have been the cause. The fitted guard should never be removed and a removable fire guard should also be in-situ when the fire is in use.

"Unfortunately those that are vulnerable don’t always realise they’re at risk and so we need the friends, relatives and neighbours of older people to ensure they are safe from fire in their homes – understandably a lot of people lead very busy lifestyles, but just a quick five minute phone call to us and we can arrange to carry out a free home fire risk check.

"If we’d have had prior access to the house, we could have ensured the fire was adequately covered, advised the man about his smoking and drinking and re-fitted the smoke alarms in more appropriate positions. If we’d had that opportunity, he might still be alive today."