OAP’s Doncaster house fire death caused by burning cigarette end

The house in Milton Grove, Armthorpe.
The house in Milton Grove, Armthorpe.

A housebound pensioner died in a fire at her Doncaster home started by a still burning cigarette end, an inquest has decided.

Irene Gallagher smoked 40 cigarettes a day but a fire service investigation showed they were not the ‘reduced ignition propensity’ type, introduced across the EU by law in 2011, which cease burning when they are discarded.

The 83-year-old was discovered behind the door of her home in Milton Grove, Armthorpe, when a care worker arrived to serve her tea last November.

Mrs Gallagher, the widow of a retired miner, was virtually housebound and prone to confusion, said her son, James, 61, and was visited four times a day by Surecare staff.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service were aware she was vulnerable so in March 2013 fitted her home with several smoke alarms and provided her with modified bedding to reduce the fire risk.

Care worker Angela Steel said Mrs Gallagher was rationed to 10 cigarettes per visit and would normally stub them out in an ash tray and put the butts in an empty packet.

When Mrs Steel visited at 4pm she found the door blocked and when she got in Mrs Gallagher and her walking frame were lying on the hall floor.

She said there was no sign of fire but a lot of smoke came along the hall from the living room, where firefighters extinguished a small fire next to her chair.

The cause of death was smoke and carbon monoxide inhalation.

South Yorkshire fire investigator Mick Mason found substantial smoke damage to the living room but limited direct burning, including a wicker basket bin which had contained a large number of cigarette butts.

He said the smouldering basket would have caught fire but it would have died out through lack of oxygen. He thought it had been burning some time with temperatures in excess of 200C.

Assistant Coroner Mark Beresford recorded a conclusion Mrs Gallagher died as the result of an accident.