Cigarette started fatal blaze

51 Prince's Street, Sutton Bridge'Fatal house fire
51 Prince's Street, Sutton Bridge'Fatal house fire

A PENSIONER who died in a fire at her home had been warned about the dangers of her ‘80-a-day’ cigarette habit.

Pauline Hurst (70) was overcome by smoke at her bungalow in Princes Street, Sutton Bridge, in December last year, while her Down’s syndrome daughter Katie slept in another room.

The inquest in Spalding on Friday heard how she dropped a cigarette in the lounge where she slept and it continued to smoulder until eventually starting the blaze.

Mrs Hurst was found lying on the floor behind the door.

A post mortem revealed the cause of death was smoke inhalation.

The inquest was told that Katie was led to safety by Mrs Hurst’s carer Janice Gant, who had seen smoke coming from the house while arriving for one of her regular visits.

The family cat did not escape and died in the room with Mrs Hurst.

Mrs Gant said she visited Mrs Hurst with a helper several times a week.

Mrs Hurst lived and slept in the lounge because she had arthritis and a swollen leg and needed help to move.

There had been several conversations about smoking because of Mrs Hurst’s health.

Mrs Gant said: “I had highlighted my concerns about her smoking that week.

“Her blankets had numerous burns and two cigarettes had burned on the carpet.

“But what can you do? Smoking was her life – cigarettes and tea.”

Mrs Hurst’s daughter, Linda, said Katie had told her she was awoken by the fire alarm and her mother screaming “help me”.

She said: “Katie said she opened the door and the cat was going mental so she slammed it quick.

“She said ‘mummy had gone’. We think she meant she had left the house because she couldn’t see her through the smoke.”

Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue’s community fire protection manager Kieron Davey said when he arrived at the scene, Mrs Hurst was on the floor behind the door.

The armchair was almost completely destroyed and there was smoke damage on the ceiling above.

He said: “Smoking materials were evident in the area of the chair where the fire started.

“Mrs Hurst had dropped a cigarette and it had burned through the cover of the seat, smouldering for hours until eventually bursting into flames and consuming the oxygen in the room.

“This is a common accident among disabled people.”

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Miss Maureen Taylor said: “Pauline Hurst had been smoking. This is a tragic incident.”