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Cigarette safety warning following tragic death of Sutton-in-Ashfield man

Posted on 27 September 2023

The cause of a tragic fatal fire on Prior Close in Sutton-in-Ashfield on 16 December 2022 has been ruled as accidental, caused by a non-reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarette discarded into a commode.

The inquest into the death of 88-year-old Kenneth Allen was heard at Nottingham’s Council House before Assistant Coroner Dr Elizabeth Didcock.

Dr Didcock found that Mr Allen died due to smoke inhalation and extensive burns, resulting from a house fire and that chronic diseases contributed to his death.

On 16 December 2022, Joint Fire Control received a call at 1.15pm from a telecare alarm company to a house fire at the address. Fire crews from Ashfield, Mansfield and Alfreton fire stations were mobilised to the incident.

The first fire engine arrived on scene within 7 mins 47 secs and firefighters were confronted with a well-developed fire and poor visibility due to the volume of smoke.

A fire was discovered within his lounge and dining room area, which is where a commode was placed and the room where Mr Allen sat. Sadly, Mr Allen was discovered by firefighters in this room with extensive burn injuries and no signs of life.

A joint fire and police investigation concluded that there was no third-party involvement and that this was an accidental fire caused by a non-RIP cigarette discarded into the commode.

Legally manufactured cigarettes that are sold in the UK by reputable suppliers are called reduced ignition propensity (RIP) cigarettes. These have an inbuilt safety feature, in the form of internal strips on the cigarette paper. These will help extinguish the cigarette after a time if the person stops inhaling.

Non-RIP counterfeit cigarettes look identical in the packaging and the cigarette to the legal versions, but crucially do not have the inbuilt safety feature. They are designed to look like the real thing, the only difference may be the price and where they are sold.

A test conducted by fire investigators, using a similar commode and the same non-RIP cigarettes Mr Allen had, showed a fire rapidly develop within four minutes. With Mr Allen’s reduced mobility and health conditions he would have found it difficult to evacuate.

Assistant Coroner Dr Elizabeth Didcock said: “I wish to extend my condolences to the family of Kenneth Allen on their sad loss.

“I would like to warn people of the dangers of non-RIP counterfeit cigarettes as people are most likely unaware that these cigarettes are not burning in the way they would expect.

“Without the inbuilt safety features of legally manufactured cigarettes, it means that if these non-RIP cigarettes are not extinguished properly, or are discarded inappropriately, accidental fires can occur more easily.”

Fire Investigation Officer Tim Marston added: “On behalf of Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue and the Fire Investigation Team, which included our colleagues from CSI and Nottinghamshire Police, I’d like to pass on our sincere condolences to the family of Mr Kenneth Allen and our thoughts are with them at this sad and difficult time.

“It is regrettably another example of an incident where smoking materials have resulted in a fatal fire. I urge everyone who smokes, or who cares for an elderly person who smokes, to review how cigarettes are managed and disposed of.

“To discuss fire safety matters within the home I’d ask those with concerns to arrange for a free Safe and Well Visit by contacting Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service.”

To arrange a Safe and Well Visit, or find out more about smoking safety, visit the Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service website.