Death of Somersham couple prompts warning about heaters

The tragic deaths of a Somersham husband and wife following a fire in their home last March have been recorded as accidental by the Coroner today.

The cause of the fire was heat radiating from a wall-mounted gas fire, causing a cardboard box next to it to catch fire. The verdict has promoted a reminder for people to ensure they use heaters safely as temperatures start to drop and the nights draw in.

Head of Community Fire Safety for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Kevin Napier said: “There were a number of contributing factors that led to these tragic deaths that highlight the vulnerability of some people in our towns and villages and we need the help of our community to help us identify people who are in a similar situation so we can visit and put measures in place with partner organisations to reduce the risk.

“The fire developed and spread rapidly as there was a lot of combustible material throughout the bungalow.  Mrs Freestone was bedridden and unable to escape. The hallway area was cluttered and the rear door was completely blocked making an exit from the home extremely difficult.”

He added: “I would urge people to please contact us if you know of a family member, neighbour or someone you provide care for,  that may be at higher risk of fire or being unable to escape in the event of a fire. Things to look out for include the stacking of combustible materials around exit routes, no working smoke alarms, mobility issues, burn marks from dropped cigarettes or lots of trailing cables and portable heaters.”

To refer someone for a Safe and Well visit by the fire service, please ring 0800 917 9994 or go to our website www.cambsfire.gov.uk 

Top tips for home safety:

  • Keep clothing and other flammable materials away from gas fires, real fires and electric heaters.
  • Fit a smoke alarm to every level of your home and test it at least once a month.
  • Ensure escape routes are kept clear and free from clutter
  • Know how you would escape if there was a fire in your home and know where keys are to doors and windows.
  • Use a sturdy ashtray if you smoke and avoid smoking if sleepy
  • If you have a real fire, get your chimney swept now, ready for the winter.

Kevin added: “Six people lost their lives in Cambridgeshire last year as a result of an accidental fire in the home. Five of them were aged over 65 with one or more contributing factors making them at higher risk of having a fire in the home. We are working closely with other agencies to identify where people with similar profiles live so we can visit and put preventative measures in place.”