Portable heater ‘most likely cause’ of blaze which killed pensioner

The scene of the fire
The scene of the fire

A house fire which led to the death of a pensioner probably started in portable heaters in his bedroom, an inquest heard.

Albert Peace, 68, died after the blaze at his home in March last year despite the efforts of firefighters who rescued him from the fire.

Fire investigation officer Edward O’Neil, of Northants Fire and Rescue Service, told the inquest in Kettering that the blaze most likely started when one of three portable heaters were left on in Mr Peace’s bedroom. Another possible cause was a coil of electrical cables.

Four fire crews were called to Martin Close, Higham Ferrers, at about 9.20pm on March 11 and firefighters carried Mr Peace from his home before pouring cold water on his face and applying water gel and clingfilm to treat the burns.

Firefighter Andrew Kendall told the inquest last Thursday about the moment he found Mr Peace. He said: “We made our way to the to the bedroom at the rear of the building. I could see the casualty laying on the floor face down. I pulled the casualty towards me so my partner and I could carry the person safely away from the flames.”

Paramedics took Mr Peace to Kettering General Hospital where doctors decided he would need treatment at a specialist burns unit. A call was made to Birmingham hospital but medics were told no beds were available.

Staff at Kettering tried a number for the National Burns Bed Bureau but found the phone line was not working. Workers then rang burns units across the country until they found a hospital bed at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, where Mr Peace was transferred. He died five days later.

The court was told the delay in finding a bed did not affect his chances of survival, as he was already receiving treatment at Kettering. Ultimately the severity of his burns, combined with smoke inhalation, led to his death.

Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember recorded the cause of death as accidental.