A Ramsey woman died from smoke inhalation after clothes which were drying near an open fire went up in flames, an inquest heard.

Berenice Setchell, 83, of Star Lane, was found at her home on January 19 after emergency services were called to the property at around 6.30am to tackle a fire.

Today (April 28) an inquest at Lawrence Court, in Huntingdon, heard that as a "creature of habit" Mrs Setchell had laid her clothes on the wicker stool, as she always did to dry her clothes.

Fire investigator for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, station commander Karl Bowden, said: "The fire had occurred in the living room area of the home either due to an ember or radiated heat that had caught the clothes and then the wicker stool."

The fire was intense and spread rapidly to buckets of coal next to the fire place and onto a set of old chairs in the living room which resulted in half of the room becoming totally destroyed by the fire.

Mr Bowden told the inquest that he believed Mrs Setchell had come back into the room and inhaled the smoke from the fire.

He said: "It has been found that even three breaths of fire can render a person unconscious. It is assumed that Mrs Setchell came back into the room and unfortunately succumbed to the smoke."

A post mortem carried out by Dr Ray Patterson at Papworth Hospital determined that Mrs Setchell died of smoke inhalation and underlying heart disease.

Coroner David Heming was told that during investigation it was found that Mrs Setchell had a fire guard but on the night the incident she did not use it.

Mr Bowden added: "If the clothes hadn't been too close to the fire and the fire guard was in place the incident might not have taken place.

"This was a tragic death of an elderly lady who was a creature of habit; she had been lighting open fires in her house for many years and never had a problem. However, on this cold day an accident did happen that sadly resulted in her losing her life.

Mr Heming, senior coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough recorded a conclusion of accidental death.

He said: "Mrs Setchell died from exposure to flames ignited from a fire in her house with the origin being clothing and a wicker stall that set alight from the radiated heat or an ember."

Following the inquest Mr Bowden issued the warning: "If you have an open fire burning any type of material, always make sure a fireguard is in place and most importantly, never dry clothing close to the fire. It is imperative to also avoid storing combustible materials like piles of wood, buckets of coal or newspapers close to a fire."