Fire warning as cigarettes blamed for fatal blazes

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FIRE chiefs have issued a safety warning after it was revealed that seven out of eight fatal house fires in the last year were suspected to have been caused by cigarettes.

Two Lothians smokers died in separate blazes within 48 hours – taking to ten the total number of fire deaths recorded this year.

Of the eight people killed in home fires since January, seven are suspected to have died as a result of careless disposal of smoking products.

A 66-year-old woman, reportedly named as Helen Lauchlan, was killed in a fire at her Mid Calder flat on Saturday, which is thought to have been sparked by a discarded cigarette.

That followed the death on Friday morning of Grant Sutherland, 41, who died in similar circumstances following a fire at his flat in Niddrie Mill Drive in Edinburgh.

Investigations into both incidents are ongoing, but initial evidence suggests the possibility they were started by cigarettes.

David Lockhart, community safety manager at Lothian and Borders Police, said: “Two fatal fires within less than 48 hours of each other are very concerning. Investigations have not yet been concluded into these incidents, but it is very likely that both of these fires were caused by discarded cigarettes.

“The effects of incidents like these are absolutely devastating upon individuals and families and my sincere sympathy goes out to those affected over the last few days.

“I’m asking people to be more aware of the increased risk of a fire within their home when smoking.

“In many incidents where cigarettes start a fire, it is entirely preventable. A few simple safety measures when smoking can prevent fires.”

News of the recent tragedies comes as the fire service warned of a spate of fatalities due to improperly discarded cigarettes across the force area.

Mr Lockhart added: “Since January 2011, the service has dealt with eight accidental dwelling fires which have resulted in a fatality and, of these, seven appear to have been caused by smoking or smoking materials.

“We cannot stress enough the risk of fires in the home associated with smoking and we ask that people take extra care when smoking in the home.

“I would also urge people who have family members or who care for someone who is a smoker and who is possibly not very mobile or considered as vulnerable, to discuss with them the risks of smoking in the home.

“You can arrange a free home-safety visit for them where firefighters will come and give them fire safety advice and will fit a free alarm.

“It is also well documented that the consumption of alcohol reduces your awareness of fire and your ability to react. People should be extra cautious whilst smoking and drinking alcohol.”

The deaths in January of Berit Mountain, 79, at Argyle Park Terrace, and Andrew Millhouse, 24, in a tent at Bilston Glen, were initially believed to have been sparked by cigarettes but were later proved otherwise.