Safety warning issued after man died from injuries caused in halogen heater fire

PUBLISHED: 13:45 13 February 2018

The inquest was held at South Molton Town Hall. Picture: Andy Keeble

The inquest was held at South Molton Town Hall. Picture: Andy Keeble


A coroner has warned people of the dangers of putting textiles too close to heaters after a pensioner died from his injuries when his duvet caught fire.

Ernest Carl Poulton, 85, was airlifted to hospital with severe burns to his legs and feet after a fire at his home in Ashton Crescent, Braunton, on April 28, last year.

Despite the heroic efforts of his neighbours, who broke into Mr Poulton’s house when the alarm was raised and rescued him, he died in hospital a month later.

An inquest at South Molton Town Hall yesterday (Tuesday) heard neighbours Roy Scott and Philip Doswell entered the house after seeing smoke issuing from the letterbox.

Mr Scott said: “The lounge door was closed and when I opened it there was a ‘whoosh’ as the flames re-ignited right away.”

The men could not initially see Mr Poulton but as the smoke cleared they saw him lying on the floor.

“We initially thought he was dead because we could not get a response out of him,” said Mr Scott.

The two men managed to carry Mr Poulton from the house, where they were met by emergency services arriving at the scene.

Fire station manager, Graham Rooke, said he believed the fire had started due to the duvet and clothing being placed too close to the halogen heater, which had then caught fire.

He said: “Mr Scott said he warned Mr Poulton of the dangers of using the heater with the dog, who could knock it over.

“He used to box it back up so he couldn’t use it, but when he went home Mr Poulton would get it back out again as it gave him instant heat.”

Mr Poulton was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol, and the next day was transferred to a specialist burns unit at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

On May 4, surgeons amputated both Mr Poulton’s legs in a bid to save his life, but his condition deteriorated and he died in hospital on May 26.

The cause of death given was multiple organ failure due to thermal injury, with the amputation noted.

The inquest heard Mr Poulton had limited mobility due to existing medical conditions and had a dependence on alcohol.

A fire safety check had been carried out at his home on February 15, 2017, where advice was given and smoke detectors were installed.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland said alcohol was also a contributing factor to Mr Poulton’s death.

Mr Rooke commended the two men for risking their lives to rescue Mr Poulton and added: “Anyone concerned about a vulnerable friend or relative can call us on 0800 0502999 and we can provide a full home safety check free-of-charge.”

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