South Yorkshire blaze victim’s smoke alarm not fitted correctly

The scene of a fatal bungalow fire in Treelands Gawber
The scene of a fatal bungalow fire in Treelands Gawber
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A SOUTH Yorkshire man who died when flames ripped through his home had a smoke alarm in his property - but had not fixed it to his ceiling, an inquest heard.

Richard Ball, known as Lester, died in May when his fridge developed a fault and burst into flames, turning his home into an inferno.

When firefighters arrived at the burning bungalow on Treelands, Gawber, Barnsley, Mr Ball was found slumped at his front door clutching his mobile phone.

His telephone records revealed he had not managed to dial 999.

The fire was discovered after officers in a passing police patrol car spotted smoke and raised the alarm.

When firefighters examined the charred remains of the property they found the smoke alarm on the floor in the hallway.

It had batteries inside but firefighters do not believe it had ever been fitted to the ceiling, where it would have been activated by smoke sooner than it would have done on the floor.

At an inquest into his death, coroner Chris Dorries, who recorded a narrative verdict, said: “Unfortunately, whilst there was a smoke alarm present within the property it was not appropriately fitted to a ceiling and would not have given Mr Ball early warning of the smoke and fire gases.

“It is likely he would have had sufficient time to escape in the circumstances had the alarm been properly fitted and working.”

Mick Mason, of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, said: “This tragic incident is the clearest possible evidence as to why people should make sure their homes are fitted with working smoke alarms and test them regularly.

“The greatest tragedy here was that a smoke alarm was present inside the property and could easily have provided the vital extra moments for Mr Ball to escape.

“But we could find no evidence the smoke alarm had been fitted to the ceiling, meaning it would have been virtually useless in terms of alerting the occupant to the fire.

“Smoke alarms cost just a few pounds, but are priceless in terms of the number of lives they save. If you don’t have working alarms you are immediately putting you and your loved ones in danger.

“Just two to three breaths of toxic smoke in a house fire and you’re unconscious.

He added: “Please, please, if you don’t have an alarm, get one today. Ideally, you should have an alarm on every level of your home and they should be fitted to the ceiling. Test them weekly and never cover them up or take the batteries out.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue is running a campaign urging residents to sign up for free weekly alerts reminding them to test their alarms.

Visit pressthebutton.co.uk to register.