Cigarette may have sparked fatal blaze

Scene of fire at Mayfield Road, St Annes in which Lucy Miller, 90, died.
Scene of fire at Mayfield Road, St Annes in which Lucy Miller, 90, died.
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AN elderly woman died in her home after a blaze was probably sparked by a cigarette, an inquest heard.

Lucy Miller, who was 90 and lived alone in a bungalow on Mayfield Road, St Annes, was found dead in her favourite chair after firefighters were called in on January 28.

An inquest at Blackpool Coroner’s Court heard she died from smoke inhalation, but was also suffering from coronary heart disease and a pulmonary embolism.

Fire officers who investigated the scene said it seemed most likely the cause was a cigarette dropped on a cushion.

The charred remnants of a cushion from Miss Miller’s chair – which she used to sit in to smoke and already had some cigarette burns on it – was found near the hearth.

The inquest heard how neighbour Margaret Cartmell had spotted white smoke coming from the property and front door was open.

She called the fire brigade and along with another neighbour went to help, but were unable to enter the house as they were beaten back by smoke.

Mrs Cartmell – who regularly assisted Miss Miller with her laundry and checked on her every day – said: “We were powerless.”

The coroner was told the pensioner, a retired midwife, had made a “failed” 999 call about an hour before the fire was discovered and dialled another number before she was overcome. She did have an emergency telecare system fitted, but if the landline had a fault, was left off the hook, or was damaged, it would not have raised the alarm.

Coroner Anne Hind said they would never know exactly what happened or why Miss Miller had not left the house on discovering the fire. She may have tried, but then her medical condition could have prohibited her from doing so.

Watch manager Steve Green said: “We would advise anyone who discovers a fire, to get out of the house. Call us and stay out.”

Mrs Hind recorded a verdict of accidental death.