Electrical extension leads thought to have overheated and ignited fire which killed woman in Clare, inquest hears

Bridget Burgess died in fire in Nethergate Street, Clare

Bridget Burgess died in fire in Nethergate Street, Clare - Credit: Su Anderson

An 84-year-old woman died in a fire caused by an electrical fault in her bedroom, an inquest has heard.

The blaze at the west Suffolk home of Bridget Burgess in Clare on the morning of February 17 was so fierce that the bedroom floor gave way and collapsed into the dining room below.An inquest yesterday in Bury St Edmunds heard how firefighters had to break open the front door to get inside the detached property in Nethergate Street.

Fire crews found the body of Mrs Burgess who, a post mortem examination later concluded, had died from smoke inhalation and burns.

Mrs Burgess, a widow, had lived alone at the house which was set back down a driveway about 30 metres from the street, the inquest heard.

The inside of the property had to be shored up before fire investigators could start work because of the dangerous state it had been left in by the fire.

Ken Williamson, from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, who investigated the fire said five crews had been sent to the scene of the outbreak which caused extensive damage.


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Beneath the remains of the bed, two electrical extension leads were discovered which had been used for two electric blankets, two table lamps, a cordless phone charger and a radio, said Mr Williamson.

Examination of the leads indicated that one had suffered a fault and probably overheated beneath the edge of the bed where it had been covered by bed clothes.

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Mr Williamson said the most likely cause of the fire had been the overheating of one of the four-way extension leads which ignited the bedding and caused extensive damage.

Assistant Suffolk Coroner Dr Daniel Sharpstone recorded a conclusion of accidental death as a result of an electrical fault.

The fire was spotted around 7.30am by 16-year-old paperboy, Thomas Baker, who raised the alarm.

It took around 40 firefighters from Clare, Haverhill, Long Melford, Wickhambrook, Sudbury and Ixworth to tackle the blaze.

At the time, Clare Town Council chairman Paul Bishop, said: “It’s a tragedy and for a small community like ours it’s a shock.”

Deputy chief fire officer of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Mark Sanderson said: “This was a very tragic accident. Fire deaths in Suffolk are few and far between but just one death is one too many for us.”

Mr Sanderson has issued the following electrical safety advice:

· Don’t overload plug sockets and extension leads - these can get very hot.

· Make sure extension leads are not covered by blankets and other similar objects, which can lead to overheating.

· Regularly check for frayed or worn cables and wires and to see if the cable is fastened securely to the plug. Check the socket for scorch marks. You should always carry out these checks before you plug an appliance in.

· Unplug appliances when not in use - This helps to reduce the risk of fire. Unplug appliances when you go to bed or when you go out unless they are designed to be left on, like fridges and freezers etc.

· Keep electrical appliances clean and in good working order - Look out for fuses that blow, circuit-breakers that trip for no obvious reason and flickering lights to prevent them triggering a fire. Call out an electrician if you have any problems.

· Make sure an electrical appliance has a British or European safety mark on it when you buy it.

· When you’re fitting or replacing a fuse, it’s important to use the right rating of fuse for the appliance to make sure the cable doesn’t overheat and that the appliance is protected in the event of a fault.

· Never use water on an electrical fire and don’t take any risks with your own safety. Pull the plug out or switch the power off where something is too hot, if it is safe to do so. If you have a fire; get out, stay out and call us out – dial 999.

The Fire and Rescue Service provide free home safety visits for vulnerable people, for more information call 01473 260588.

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