Smoke alarm plea after pensioner's death in house fire
IF JUST one family fits a new smoke alarm in the wake of the death of Joan MacDonald, it will be a positive effect of the terrible tragedy.
That was the call from coroner Paul Kelly aiming to have working smoke alarms fitted in every home in North East Lincolnshire.
After hearing the dramatic bid to rescue the 75-year-old from her blazing home in Convamore Road, Grimsby, Mr Kelly said: "It is the time of year when homeowners are bringing in more sources of heating and the potential for fires is at its greatest.
"To all owners, particularly those in older properties, I would encourage a call to Humberside Fire and Rescue Service to take up their offer of a home fire safety check and to invite the fitting of free smoke detectors.
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"I hope if one family takes advantage of that offer, it will have had a positive effect following the death of Mrs MacDonald."
The coroner concluded the pensioner died accidentally from burns after a cigarette was discarded carelessly.
Mr Kelly said: "It ignited textiles on the sofa in which she was seated. It caused noxious smoke from the covering of that sofa. The flames and smoke led to the death of Mrs MacDonald."
He passed his condolences to the woman's family who attended the inquest at Cleethorpes Town Hall.
They heard of the dramatic attempts by neighbours to rescue her from the fire on July 30, at 2pm,
Mrs MacDonald died in the specialist burns unit in Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield.
A post mortem examination revealed she died from burns.
The inquest heard Mrs MacDonald's husband Frank had gone out shopping.
He told the inquest he normally lit cigarettes for his wife but suspected that when he went out to the shops she lit one for herself.
Mr MacDonald said their home had two smoke detectors fitted, but he had not replaced batteries for some time.
He confirmed he checked one of the alarms about three months prior to the tragedy.
Fire investigation officer for Humberside Fire and Rescue Service station manager Richard Hagger said the batteries in both smoke alarms were dead.
The detectors were between 12 to 15 years old.
He said: "They would have been at the latter end of their useful life.
Detectors are there to detect the products of combustion at an early stage and enable occupants to escape."
He said the alarms were loud enough to be heard by anyone outside the property so they could carry out a rescue sooner.
The station manager said there had never been a fire safety check at the property.
He said Humberside Fire and Rescue Service provides the service for free, along with smoke detectors fitted for free.
Mr Hagger said: "It was a tragedy. A modern smoke alarm might have alerted the neighbours."
Pc Marcus Pidgen, of Humberside Police, told of the dramatic rescue by neighbours, James Bailey, Robin Blastland and Jonathan Richards.
Mr Bailey used bricks and a hosepipe from a neighbour's garden to smash a rear window and gain entry to the living room where he used the hosepipe to quell the flames.
He described the horror of finding Mrs MacDonald.
The officer told how Mr Bailey crawled on his hands and knees in an initial attempt at a rescue through the front door.
He was beaten back by thick smoke and heat, but was determined to gain access and went in via a rear window despite the several feet high flames.
Anyone wanting a fire safety check and smoke alarms fitting should contact their local fire station to arrange a visit.