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Case Study 1

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How this fire happened

82-year-old male who lived with his wife in a first floor flat.


He was mobile and a regular smoker.

He had a long-term skin condition for which he used daily emollients.


He used them to wash in the shower, patting himself dry with his dressing gown.


On this particular morning, he was sitting on his balcony whilst his wife was out walking when he accidentally dropped his cigarette, match or lighter.


It instantly set fire to his dressing gown, the belt of which he had double knotted.


He jumped out of his seat and made his way through his sitting room to the bathroom.


In the few seconds it took him to reach the bathroom, the flames were so intense the light shade on the hallway ceiling had melted and most of the dressing gown had burnt off him.


By the time he reached the bathroom only the belt of the dressing gown was left.

Regrettably, he died in hospital later that day from his burns.


Before he died the fire investigator managed to have a short conversation with him about how the fire had happened.


The coroner ruled that the fire had been accidental and the emollients had contributed to the speed and intensity of the fire.

Safety message

  • Never smoke in bed

  • Do not smoke if there is any chance your clothing or dressings could be contaminated with these products 

  • Do not cook if there is any chance your clothing or dressings could be contaminated with these products 

  • Do not sit too close to any open fires, gas fires or halogen heaters

  • Wash your clothing and bedding daily at the highest temperature recommended by the fabric care instructions.

    This should reduce some of the contamination but may not remove it completely.   

Case Study 2

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Female age 74 who lived alone in a 2 bedroomed ground floor flat.


She was bedbound and a regular smoker.


She had a longstanding skin condition psoriasis for which she used emollients on a daily basis.


Despite conversations about smoking cessation, she continued to smoke.


She had been issued fire retardant bedding but wasn’t using it.


She was visited daily by care workers, district nurses and family.


The fire started between midnight and 4.10 am when her linked fire detector alerted the careline system.


By the time the fire service entered the property the black acrid smoke was already at floor level. She was found in her bed showing no signs of life.


The fire investigation team found that the Ignition source was most likely the result of a match or cigarette coming into contact with her bedding.


The fire had developed rapidly – hastened by the presence of emollients on the loose materials and the dynamic airflow mattress that she slept on.

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