Cambridgeshire residents urged to protect their homes after two die in shock’ weekend fires in county

Fire crews. Photo: Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service
Fire crews. Photo: Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service

The public is being urged to join the fire service in protecting elderly and vulnerable family members and neighbours from fire, as investigations reveal two fatal fires at the weekend started accidentally.

Two gentlemen in Cambridge and Toft lost their lives in separate fires on Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning.

Fire investigators and police forensic experts carried out extensive investigations yesterday (Sunday, November 22) to determine the cause of both fires.

The first fire, on Saturday (Nov 21), in City Road Cambridge, looks to have been caused by an electric blanket which had been placed on a reclining chair. The second fire, which broke out on Sunday morning (Nov 22) in High Street, Toft, is also believed to have started accidentally in a cupboard under the stairs.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Chris Strickland said: “The weekend’s tragic events came as a shock to us all and our thoughts are with the families and friends of the men who died. In Cambridgeshire, deaths as a result of an accidental fire are rare, under five a year, and so to lose two of our residents in this way on the same night is particularly tragic.

“Elderly residents with mobility issues or other illnesses or disabilities are at greater risk from fire as their reactions are slower, they may have difficulty escaping due to mobility problems, or they may become confused. We are urging people to refer family members or neighbours to us if you spot any of the risk factors below when you visit them, so we can visit, carry out a risk assessment, offer support and advice, and install suitable smoke alarms or other equipment we feel necessary.”

The signs to look out for include:

. The use of lots of extension cables, wires trailing on the floor or sockets being overloaded.

. With smokers, signs of small burns to carpets, clothes, bedding or furniture and unstable make-shift ashtrays.

. Signs of hoarding or lots of combustible material lying around (such as newspapers, bags of rubbish, books etc) or blocking escape routes and windows.

. Signs of burnt food pans or singed tea-towels.

. Portable heaters being used, placed close to curtains, bedding, trailing blankets etc or standing unstable on the carpet.

. Smoking in bed or in a chair where they also nap.

. Is there a working smoke alarm on each floor?

. Also check if they use an electric blanket. If they do, ask when it was last checked over.

Chris continued: “We have specially trained staff who will make an appointment to visit and give an assessment of the home, offering advice and putting in place measures to reduce the risk of a fire happening. The fire service can also refer residents to other partner agencies who may be able to offer support or assistance.

“With the cold snap that has now set in, the risks of a fire can be greater with an increase in the use of portable heaters and electric blankets. Please do take the time to visit elderly family members, friends and neighbours and take a look for the potential hazards.”

To refer someone for a home fire safety check visit, ring freephone 0800 9179994 or email firefire@cambsfire.gov.uk. We will ask for an address and contact number of the person needing the home visit, and a number of other questions about them to help us think in advance of the visit about the help they may need, for example if they have a hearing disability (as we have special smoke alarms), if they smoke, if they have mobility disabilities etc.

It is often useful to have someone who visits the individual regularly present during the visit too and can ensure the advice is followed on a continuous basis.

Further advice about staying safe from fire in the home can be found on the CFRS website www.cambsfire.gov.uk.