Mansfield man's death caused by accidental fire

24/09/2020

The cause of a house fire which claimed the life of a 76-year old man in Mansfield last December was accidental, a Coroner has ruled.

Michael Colin Edward Chapman was taken to hospital following the fire at his home in Chadburn Road on 15 December 2019.  He later died as a result of injuries sustained through smoke inhalation. 

An inquest into Mr Chapman’s death on 23 September 2020 heard that the cause of the fire had been an electrical extension cable, or an item plugged into it, in the lounge of the one-bedroom bungalow.

Mr Chapman’s neighbour had been alerted to the fire by a sounding smoke alarm and, with the assistance of another neighbor, had managed to get him out of the property and into the back garden prior to the arrival of fire crews.  He was given emergency first aid at the scene by firefighters and paramedics, before being taken to Nottingham’s City Hospital where, two weeks later, he sadly died.  

Fire Investigator Tom Clark told the court that the first fire crew arrived on the scene seven minutes after the call to Fire Control.  They were joined by a further two fire crews, plus police and paramedics.

Mr Clark said: “On arrival, firefighters found a well-developed fire between a small desk and the sofa in the lounge of the bungalow.  There was significant fire damage to the left-hand side of the sofa and smoke had affected the premises.

“There were various items filling the floor space, and a four-gang electrical extension lead with multiple items plugged into it was within the seat of the fire.  Our investigation concluded that the cause of the fire was accidental and was due to either the extension lead, or one of the items plugged into it.”

The court heard that Mr Chapman had lived ‘a chaotic lifestyle’ in terms of storage and the number of items that were cluttering the lounge at the time of the fire.

Assistant Coroner Jonathan Straw said: “One of the difficulties faced where items are stored in this way – as clutter – is that this can be fuel for the fire and can also make access and egress difficult.”

He added that the confusing effects of smoke can also impede an occupant’s escape from a property, no matter how well they know the lay-out.

Mr Straw concluded that Mr Chapman had died as a result of injuries sustained during a fire at his home address, the cause of which had been accidental.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr Clark said: “The tragic events of 15 December 2019 highlight the increased risk of fire in the home where electrical sockets and extension leads are overloaded, or where electrical appliances have not been maintained or used safely.

“Electrical items, if covered, can over-heat resulting in a fire and can spread quickly to items stored nearby. As we have seen, the outcome can be devastating.

“I would urge people to make sure all electrical items are well-maintained and care is taken so as to avoid any accidental damage to the flex, the plug or even the item itself. Avoid burying or covering these items to also prevent damage or over-heating, and don’t overload sockets or extension leads.

“Make an escape plan for your home and ensure access routes are clear. We also recommend fitting smoke alarms on each level of your property and testing them regularly.

“Our sincerest condolences go to Mr Chapman’s family following this tragic event.”

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