Fire service issue advice about escape routes after St Neots man died in faulty fuse box blaze

Coroner's Court

Coroner's Court - Credit: Archant

A fire caused by a faulty fuse box led to the death of a St Neots man, an inquest has heard.

Edmund Baldwin, of Hen Brook, was found dead at his home on June 14 after emergency services were called to the property at 5.30am to tackle the fire. Firefighters, wearing thermal imaging equipment, discovered Mr Baldwin unconscious close to the back door of the property. They gave him CPR, but were unable to revive him.

An inquest at Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon, heard that police officers forced entry to the house after being alerted by neighbours who reported hearing a loud bang.

Fire investigator for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, Karl Bowden, said: “The fire occurred in the under stairs cupboard found in the front room of the property.

“At some point the cupboard door was opened during the fire and smoke raised to the rest of the property.

“It is absolutely clear to me that the fire started in the fuse box – there was a fault with the fuse box and caused excess heat.”

Coroner David Morris was told there was a smoke detector on the first floor of the property which alerted Mr Baldwin and he went down stairs and discovered the fire and tried to escape, but it is believed that he couldn’t find the keys to the rear door and subsequently collapsed.

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It was noted that Mr Baldwin wouldn’t have been able to see anything as the room would have been blackened from the smoke.

“In my opinion he had tried to leave the property by the route he usually uses and couldn’t find the key. If he had exited by another door or left the key in the door he might have survived,” added Mr Bowden.

Station commander Paul Clarke added: “There was a smoke alarm sounding in the property but it was on the first floor. We recommend a smoke alarm on each floor of the house so the smoke can be detected as early as possible. We also recommend keeping keys to your doors easily accessible, but also following police advice to keep them out of reach and sight from the letterbox.”

David Morris, assistant coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough recorded a conclusion of accidental death.

He said: “Mr Baldwin was at home in the early hours of the morning and was awoken by the fire alarm and realised something was on fire.

“He tried to escape from the property and was overcome by fumes and found dead at the scene.”

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service issued advice about planning escape routes after the inquest on November 26.

Station Commander Paul Clarke, community risk manager, said: “It is our belief that Mr Baldwin tried to escape after discovering the fire but there was no key in the back door. Smoke from a fire contains narcotic fumes which can cause a person to become disorientated, particularly when the smoke is also pitch black making visibility poor.

“It may sound silly but practising your escape route is also very useful, especially if you have children in the house. With Christmas not too far around the corner now, it is often a time when many people have house guests staying over. Make sure they know where keys are kept and where exit doors are too.”