Staffordshire's Chief Fire Officer, Peter Dartford, has reported his shock at the fact no working smoke alarms were fitted at a property where an elderly lady died in a house fire yesterday.
The Service is urging relatives and neighbours of elderly people to get in touch with them to arrange a free home fire risk check, following the death of the 79 year old lady yesterday. The incident is the second fatal house fire in less than a month involving an elderly person.
"We offer everyone in the county a free home fire risk check which includes the fitting of free smoke alarms, along with other life saving equipment and advice on how to escape your home should a fire occur."
Peter Dartford, Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Chief Fire Officer/Chief Executive Peter Dartford said: "We are extremely shocked that this lady did not have working smoke alarms. We offer everyone in the County a free home fire risk check which includes the fitting of free smoke alarms, along with other life saving equipment and advice on how to escape your home should a fire occur. If you haven’t got a working smoke alarm you are putting the lives of you and your family at risk.
"We're urging the elderly and all those people who have elderly relatives and neighbours, to get in touch with us so we can arrange a visit. It's outrageous that no one had informed us about this lady – she was elderly, living alone and had no protection from fire. If we don't know about people, such as this lady, then we can't help them.
"Elderly people are more vulnerable to fire because they are often less mobile and therefore find it difficult to get out of their property quickly. We are currently running a campaign called 'Young at Heart, Safe at Home' which aims to raise awareness of fire safety amongst the elderly and those who care for them.
"Since January 2007 we have had 18 fire deaths; 15 of which have involved those over the age of 65 – the statistics speak for themselves."
The incident yesterday was at a semi detached property on Sparch Close, Wolstanton, Newcastle under Lyme. The emergency call came from a neighbour at approximately 3.15pm. Two crews from Newcastle and one from Burslem were sent to tackle the fire.
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus found the lady, who was showing no life signs, in the rear living area of the property. As a result of the incident the rear living room suffered severe fire damage and the fire had also burnt up through the floorboards into the first floor.
A fire investigation has established that the incident was caused accidentally by a cigarette.
Area Commander for Newcastle, Becci Bryant said: "It seems that the lady had fallen asleep in her arm chair whilst smoking a cigarette, which has then ignited furniture and carpet in the surrounding area.
"This is a tragic incident; however this is the third fatal house fire since the start of 2009 that has been caused by cigarettes. Unfortunately it’s a trend reflected nationally – every three days some dies from a fire caused by smoking materials."
The incident was one of three house fires attended in the Newcastle area yesterday.
The first was a kitchen fire on Calvert Grove, Bradwell, that involved a grill pan on fire. This incident was just half an hour prior to the fatal fire in Wolstanton. Crews then returned to the Bradwell area just hours later at 7.45pm, to a property on Shawport Avenue, where they dealt with a tumble dryer fire. The kitchen suffered severe fire damage as a result and the occupiers had to be re-housed.