Clothing left near heater ‘most likely’ cause of fire which killed a Sheffield man

The scene of the fire on Poplar Avenue, Beighton,
The scene of the fire on Poplar Avenue, Beighton,
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A coroner has issued a warning to residents after ruling that a blaze which killed a Sheffield man was ‘likely’ caused by clothing left near a gas heater.

Richard Hobson, aged 61, of Poplar Avenue, Beighton, died on March 3 when flames swept through his house.

An inquest into Mr Hobson’s death heard that coats hung on a rack above a heater in the hallway and clothes left drying on a clothes horse nearby were ‘more likely than not’ the cause of the fire.

The court heard Mr Hobson, who worked at Arnold Laver, was upstairs asleep when the fire broke out, and rushed into the front bedroom to try to escape.

Station officer Andy Strelczenie, of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Darnall station, said when Mr Hobson opened a window without closing the bedroom door he created a ‘chimney effect’ which engulfed him in flames.

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A forensic examination of the heater, which was encased in a metal surround, found it was not faulty.

Mr Hobson lived with his mum Kathleen, aged 88, and his sister, Anne, in the family’s home of 60 years.

The court heard the family found it hard to accept that clothing could have got hot enough to have caused the fire.

Assistant coroner Julian Fox recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He issued a warning to residents and said lessons should be learned from Mr Hobson’s death.

Mr Fox said: “Two very important lessons should be learned, or re-learned, from these terribly tragic events.

“Although we all do it, it’s terribly dangerous to stand clothes or put clothes and other flammable materials near to a heater, which appears to be what happened here.

“Secondly, that if any of us have the misfortune to be caught above a fire with no obvious means of escape, it’s important to close all doors and put physical barriers between us and the fire before opening a window or trying to get out, in order to reduce the risk of creating a chimney effect.”