Inquest into death of pensioner Andrew Dunthorne in Norwich house fire highlights importance of smoke alarms
- Credit: Tony Brown
A coroner has highlighted the importance of smoke alarms after a pensioner was killed in a Norwich house fire.
Retired cleaner Andrew Dunthorne died from carbon monoxide poisoning at his home in Penn Grove on January 5 this year.
An inquest held in Norwich on Thursday heard how it may have been caused by the cable to his electric blanket overheating.
It is believed that the 73-year-old had attempted to put out the fire using towels, which ended up spreading it around his home.
Emergency services were only alerted to the incident after neighbours were woken by their own smoke alarms and the smell of smoke.
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The first fire crew forced entry into the terraced house at around 2am and extinguished three small fires inside.
A second crew searched the smoke-filled property and discovered Mr Dunthorne's body in a first-floor room.
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A post mortem found that he died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation, and suffered no burns in the incident.
Fire officer David Brett told the inquest that the service spent an entire day trying to piece together how the blaze started.
When crews arrived, they found a small fire on the bottom of the staircase, another at the top, and one in the bedroom.
It was established that the cable to Mr Dunthorne's electric blanket had worn over time, leading to resistive heating, which ignited the mattress.
Mr Brett said one theory was that Mr Dunthorne had attempted to extinguish the flames with bath towels, which then caught fire.
As he ran back into the bathroom, it is believed parts of the burning towels ignited clothing on the floor at the top of the stairs.
That then dropped to the bottom of the staircase, resulting in another small fire.
Investigators found the burnt towels in the bathroom, as well as a bedsheet in a bathtub, which was filled with water.
The inquest heard how Mr Dunthorne did not have any smoke alarms installed.
Mr Brett said: 'Unfortunately, within my 30 years of service, this type of scenario is quite common.
'Someone decides they want to live on their own and they have not had support from local authority safeguarding teams and they are unaware of the risks they are exposed to.
'Smoke alarm ownership is key,' he added.
Area coroner, Yvonne Blake, said Mr Dunthorne died as a result of misadventure.
She added: 'It is worthwhile noting that the fire service does offer free home assessments to people and judges what fire prevention they need.'