Tragic death prompts electric blanket advice from Cambridgeshire fire service

Take care storing electric blankets and get rid of old ones is the message from fire officers following the inquest of a Cambridgeshire pensioner.

Friday, 15th April 2016, 9:43 am
Updated Friday, 15th April 2016, 9:43 am
Warning over electric blanket fires

Kenneth Williams, 95, died due to smoke inhalation following a fire in his home on November 21 last year.

Firefighters were met with heavy smoke when they were called to his home. They found a smouldering fire involving a large reclining chair and other objects in the living room. Sadly Mr Williams was deceased in a downstairs bedroom area.

Fire investigators discovered evidence an electric blanket used in the chair started the fire.

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Station Commander Martin Brown, Fire Investigator, said: “It was a frosty winter’s night and understandably Mr Williams had probably tried to keep himself warm by using an electric blanket. However, this electric blanket was left on his reclining chair, overheated, and caused a fire, which was burning for several hours before the fire service was called.

“As we enter Spring and the cold nights are hopefully behind us, we are asking residents, and those who have elderly friends or relatives, to inspect electric blankets.

“If they are old and look a little worse for wear, throw them out now so you are not tempted to use them next winter.

“If an electric blanket is in good working order then store it correctly, according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. If they are stuffed in a cupboard this can often cause the filaments inside to become damaged and as a result, are more likely to overheat and cause a fire.”

Mr Williams was sadly one of two elderly men who died in house fires in a 24-hour period. Following these deaths, CFRS identified addresses of 1,000 men, over the age of 90 who are living alone and to date, 300 of these have received home fire safety visits from fire service staff to try and reduce their risk of fire in the home.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is encouraging the community to look out for elderly and vulnerable people to help them identify those who may be most at risk.

Martin added: “Things like overloaded plug sockets and using lots of electric blankets and heaters, combined with being elderly, can make someone more vulnerable to fire. All of these things are key signs to look out for and we’re asking the public to be our eyes and ears in the community.”

If you know someone who is vulnerable or who you think could benefit from a free visit from the fire service, call 0800 917 9999 or apply for a home fire safety check online through our partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council.