Overheated electric cable cause of fatal Newcastle fire

An investigation into a fire which killed an 83-year-old woman in Newcastle has revealed it was started accidentally after an old electrical cable reel overheated.

Lucy Lester was rescued from the blaze on Turin Drive in Westlands in the early hours of Tuesday morning, but despite the efforts of paramedics was pronounced dead at the scene.

Fire Investigation Officer Neil Pedersen said: “An old electrical cable reel was being used to power a halogen heater in one of the bedrooms. The lead had not been fully extended as it is supposed to be, meaning cables were still wrapped around the reel.

"This then resulted in the wiring overheating and slowly burning, before developing into a fire that spread to the bed and other materials nearby, eventually burning through the floor into carport below.

“We know Mrs Lester was not sleeping in this room and so we believe smoke alarms must have alerted her to the fire. Firefighters found her close to the source of the fire, suggesting she went to investigate, rather than exiting the property.

"We cannot stress enough that if there is a fire in your home you need to get out, stay out and call 999 immediately – it really isn’t worth the risk of going to investigate. Firefighters have the equipment and protective clothing to deal with these incidents.”

It was the second fatal house fire in a week in the county, after 96-year-old John Tune died at his Meir home on Friday (7 April).

Chief Fire Officer Becci Bryant said: “This a tragic set of circumstances and my sincere condolences go out to Mrs Lester’s friends and family. She is sadly the second person in the county to die in a fire in less than a week.

"She was elderly and had poor mobility; these are the same factors that also put Mr Tune who died last week at increased risk of a fire. These two deaths and the 56 people that have died in the last 10 years are our drivers behind the SAME campaign.

"We know that being a smoker, drinking alcohol, having limited mobility and being elderly are all factors that put you at increased risk of dying in a fire. Even if none of these factors apply to you, they may be relevant to someone you know; so it is crucial that we get these messages across as we don’t want any more families having to experience the tragedies we have witnessed this past week.

“We’re encouraging people to dispose of smoking materials properly, avoid cooking or smoking in bed/on the sofa when drunk. All people with poor mobility and those aged over 65 we’d urge to contact our Community Advice Team on 0800 0241 999 as you may need to receive a Safe and Well visit from us, so we can ensure you are as safe as possible from a fire in your home.”

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