Upper Sheringham fire death prompts coroner warning over clothes drying

A coroner has warned people of the danger of drying clothes on top of storage heaters, after hearing that a subsequent build-up of heat could have caused a fire in which a North Norfolk man died.

William King, 69, was pronounced dead at his home in The Street, Upper Sheringham, on April 12 last year.

Fire investigation officer James Belcher told a Norwich inquest there were two possible causes of the fire in which he died - a discarded cigarette or clothes catching fire on top of a storage heater.

He said the first possibility was unlikely as Mr King was not a careless smoker and emptied his ashtrays regularly and there were no burn marks found on the carpet.

The second possibility was also quite rare but he said the company that made the heater had identified one serious incident when it had happened before with the same type of appliance.

The inquest also heard that an armchair next to the heater in front of the TV in Mr King's living room was badly burned in the fire.

Norfolk coroner William Armstrong last Wednesday recorded a verdict of death as a result of an accidental fire at home.

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He said: 'This inquest has served to draw attention to the public that putting clothes on top of storage heaters can be potentially hazardous and undesirable, as it can lead to a build-up of heat in the heater, which leads to the clothes catching fire.'

Earlier, Mr King's neighbour Alan Boardman told the inquest that Mr King was a heavy smoker and drinker, but that he was not a careless smoker.

He said Mr King had lived on his own for about three years since his wife Nova had been moved to a residential care home after her health deteriorated.

Mr Boardman said that Mr King had become so distressed by his wife's condition that he had once slashed his wrists.

He added: 'He was a very good, generous person and a very proud man, and very independent. But he did drink a lot, mainly brandy and Guinness, and he was a very heavy smoker.'

The inquest was told that Mr Boardman was alerted by a neighbour concerned about Mr King's welfare on April 12, as he had noticed that the windows of his semi-detached cottage were blackened out.

They phoned the police and the ambulance service who forced entry into Mr King's house and found him dead inside.

A post mortem examination was carried out and the cause of death was given as carbon monoxide poisoning due to smoke inhalation as a result of a fire. A contributory factor was alcohol intoxication as Mr King had consumed a substantial amount of alcohol.

Mr King, who was a retired window cleaner, was born in Belfast. The inquest heard that his wife was aware of his death and had attended the funeral, but she was unable to attend.

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