Fatal house fire most likely caused by lit cigarette, inquest hears

Emergency services were called to the scene of a house fire in Downham Market. Picture: Sarah Hussai

Emergency services were called to the scene of a house fire in Downham Market. Picture: Sarah Hussain - Credit: Archant

A fire at a house in which a 53-year-old woman died was probably caused by a lit cigarette being dropped onto a chair, an inquest heard.

Samantha Ford died after a blaze broke out inside her semi-detached house at Retreat Estate in Downham Market on July 29 last year.

Emergency services on the scene of a fatal house fire on Retreat Estate in Downham Market. Picture:

Emergency services at the scene of the house fire in Downham Market.  - Credit: Ian Burt

An inquest at Norfolk Coroner's Court in Norwich on Friday heard that Mrs Ford was a smoker and that at the time of her death had a high level of alcohol in her system which may have caused her to be confused in the fire.

Fire station manager Duncan Ashworth, who investigated the blaze, said the most likely cause was a cigarette igniting an armchair and soft furnishings. 

He said: “There was significant fire damage to the room of origin and heat damage to the rest of the ground floor. 

“The deceased was known to be a heavy smoker and there was evidence elsewhere in the property of careless disposal of cigarettes.” 

Emergency services were called to the scene of a house fire in Downham Market. Picture: Sarah Hussai

Emergency services were called to the scene of a house fire in Downham Market. Picture: Sarah Hussain - Credit: Archant

Four fire crews from Downham Market, King’s Lynn and Outwell were called to the blaze and firefighters used bolt cutters and breathing apparatus to access the property.

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Mrs Ford was discovered in the ground floor living room which was the main seat of the fire. There was no evidence of deliberate ignition, Mr Ashworth added. 

The medical cause of death was given as smoke inhalation and extensive burns, as a result of a house fire. Area coroner Yvonne Blake’s conclusion was death by misadventure.

Emergency services on the scene of a fatal house fire on Retreat Estate in Downham Market. Picture:

Emergency services on the scene of a fatal house fire on Retreat Estate in Downham Market. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Emergency services were called to the house at about 11.30m on July 29 after neighbours called 999 after seeing smoke coming from an open ground floor window.

The inquest was told that Mrs Ford smoked 20 cigarettes a day.

Her son Elliot told the hearing when he left the house 20 minutes before the fire she had been sitting in an armchair in the living room. 

In a statement he said: “When she did have a drink she became very vacant and she would also become very clumsy when she had been drinking. 

“She would fall over easily and drop things.” 

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