Lit cigarette led to fatal fire

Norman Hill, 81, died from smoke inhalation at his home on Glenfield Avenue
Norman Hill, 81, died from smoke inhalation at his home on Glenfield Avenue
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A pensioner was found dead in his home after a lit cigarette sparked a devastating fire.

An inquest heard Norman Hill, 81, died from smoke inhalation when his home, on Glenfield Avenue, Bispham, was engulfed in toxic smoke on April 7.

Mr Hill, a widower since 1996, was found on his bedroom floor by firefighters after the alarm was raised by Linda Burns, his only daughter and carer, when she arrived at his bungalow.

Watch manager Richard Percival, of Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, carried out the investigation following Mr Hill’s death and suggested the fire was started by a cigarette which had fallen on to an armchair.

His statement, read out by Blackpool and the Fylde coroner Alan Wilson, said: “A cigarette as a cause of fire is considered highly likely.

“The chair was damaged which supported the development of the cigarette ignition.

“There’s a strong likelihood that Mr Hill has lit a cigarette and drifted off to sleep for a short time before waking up and taking himself off to bed without realising the cigarette was still alight.”

Mr Hill, a former lorry driver, did not have a smoke alarm fitted in his bungalow – which watch manager Percival said could have helped the 
pensioner.

He added: “After considering information provided by Linda Burns and evidence at the scene I have afforded the possibility that a smoke alarm would have given an early warning on this occasion.”

Mr Hill was suffering from emphysema at the time of the fire and a post-mortem examination determined the amount of smoke he inhaled exacerbated his condition and caused his death.

Mr Wilson said: “All the rooms in the house had been affected by the smoke and there had been some movement during the fire from Mr Hill because he had got out of bed at some point during the fire.

The cause of death is an existing medical condition that has been exacerbated as a result of the inhalation of smoke.

“The fire has been started accidentally and that has started off a chain of events that led to this gentleman’s death.”

Speaking after the inquest, Ms Burns, 49, of Kirton Place, Cleveleys, said: “He will be sorely missed.

“He was very supportive of me and his granddaughter and loved going on holiday in Scotland, which is why we took his ashes to Sandaig Beach, on the west coast.

“He would get out of breath within five minutes (of moving) so he didn’t go out much.

“He loved to watch Blackpool but he loved watching any football game and with him not going out as much, that was basically what he did.”

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