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Smoke alarm could have saved pensioner
2:59pm Saturday 16th February 2013 in News
A bedridden pensioner who died after dropping a cigarette when she fell asleep could have been saved had she agreed to having a smoke alarm, an inquest heard.
Bradford assistant deputy coroner Roger Whittaker said lessons could be learned from 90-year-old Nelly Carr's death at her converted mill home in High Mill Lane, Addingham, in March 2011.
Tuesday’s inquest heard how Mrs Carr, a heavy smoker, had four smoke alarms fitted by firefighters in 2008 after a home safety check but in 2010 had turned down the offer to get a detector fitted in her bedroom and free fire-retardant bedding.
The inquest heard how Mrs Carr's mattress had been “completely consumed” by fire and she was found by firefighters collapsed on the floor between the bed and the bedroom door, which had been shut at the time.
Mrs Carr's neighbour Mike Whiteley and a police officer were the first on the scene.
They both tried to rescue her but had been beaten back by the intense heat and thick smoke.
Commenting on their bravery, Mr Whittaker said: “I commend both of them for doing what was a dangerous job trying to find Mrs Carr without the benefit of breathing apparatus.”
Mr Whittaker said he was anxious lessons should be learned to prevent anything similar happening to other families with bedridden relatives.
He heard from fire investigator Garry Asquith how Mrs Carr’s local fire station had previously tried to help with advice because of risks posed by her smoking in bed.
“In 2010 we did offer her a smoke alarm and fire retardant bedding but she refused,” said Mr Asquith. “It’s possible an alarm in the bedroom might have saved her life by giving her the chance to wake and ring 999.
“If she'd allowed us to help, it might have made a difference.”
He said the fire that erupted could have been smouldering for up to four hours. It had got so hot in the bedroom that wallpaper had melted off the walls.
Just before 4am on March 9, Mr Whiteley woke smelling smoke and realised it was coming from next door. He dialled 999 and used a spare key to let himself in, but had to retreat.
Minutes later a police officer also tried to get up the stairs but was forced back. Eventually firefighters managed to reach her using breathing apparatus.
Mrs Carr, who had a history of heart disease and breathing problems, was pronounced dead by paramedics outside her home. A post mortem examination showed she had died from breathing in smoke.
Recording an accidental death, Mr Whittaker said Mrs Carr declining the fire service's offer of help had "amplified the tragedy of the case" and he told to Mr Asquith: "I hope you will now be contacted for advice and help by people who are anxious to prevent similar fires."