Fire risk assessment cancelled at house where woman died in blaze

Emergency services at the scene of a house fire in Rosemary Way in Downham Market where a person's b

Emergency services at the scene of the fire in Downham Market in which Rachel Wright died in April, 2020 - Credit: Sarah Hussain

A fire risk assessment at the home of a vulnerable 49-year-old woman was cancelled without being rearranged weeks before she died in a blaze at the house.

The visit to Rachel Wright's home in Downham Market on February 24, 2020, could not go ahead because she was in hospital, an inquest heard on Wednesday.

Mrs Wright was found dead after a fire at the property, on Rosemary Way, on April 8. A post mortem examination revealed she died from inhaling fumes.

An earlier inquest, on November 13, heard the fire could have been started by a discarded cigarette or deliberately. Resuming the inquest in Norwich senior coroner Jacqueline Lake heard Mrs Wright suffered complex mental and physical health problems.

In a statement Tony Langham, Norfolk County Council team manager for the mental health social care team, said he had met Mrs Wright in December 2019  to discuss residential after concerns had been raised about her condition. Mrs Wright said she wanted to remain in the property, which was untidy but she appeared able to care for herself.

Mrs Wright was admitted to hospital in February, 2020, after suffering a seizure and a blood clot. Mr Langham said she was in hospital on February 24, when a fire risk assessment had been arranged. He said he did not know why a new date was not made.

The assessment was ordered after Mrs Wright, who was a smoker, was taken to hospital after accidentally causing a fire in the garden on February 9. 

Mrs Wright had been reminded by a carer she should not smoke in the house, the court was told. On March 10, her home was in a mess and her fingers were burned.

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In the weeks before her death, there were concerns Mrs Wright was deteriorating but she appeared normal on the morning of the fire, on April 8.

Summing up, Mrs Lake said there was no evidence she had deliberately started the fire to take her own life. She said there was a plentiful supply of flammable material in the house, there were no ashtrays and she smoked heavily.

She concluded Mrs Wright died from injuries sustained in the fire. Mrs Lake said she was concerned the fire risk assessment had not been carried out. She said while this did not contribute to Mrs Wright's death, she would be writing to Mr Langham to ask him to remind staff of the importance of ensuring assessments were carried out.

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