Belfast Telegraph

Fears of fire chiefs grow as another OAP dies in blaze

By Anna Maguire

A woman has died in a house fire in Lisburn — the fifth person over 60 to lose their life inside a month.

Firefighters were called to a bungalow on Maralin Avenue in Lisburn shortly before 9.45am on Tuesday.

They found the woman — understood to have been 64 — dead in the living room of the property where she lived alone.

A small fire in the room had already burnt itself out.

Last month four pensioners died within a fortnight following accidental blazes at their homes.

One of the victims was a 90-year-old woman, who died in hospital hours after sustaining serious burns.

The spate of tragedies has caused alarm among fire chiefs, who will meet with the Commissioner for Older People and other groups in the coming weeks.

Dale Ashford, assistant chief fire officer of safety services with the Northern Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), said that he has never witnessed so many fatalities in one group of people during his 25 years as a fire officer.

The cause of the blazes — which Mr Ashford described as “unprecedented” — is worrying fire chiefs.

Nearly all of the properties involved had been fitted with fire alarms.

Mr Ashford said: “We have issued 20,000 leaflets in the wider community and we have visited 200 homes for safety checks.

“We are always looking for new ideas. We have worked with health and social workers in the past and it has been beneficial.”

Claire Keatinge, the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, described the spate of deaths as “concerning”.

A spokesman for Ms Keatinge added: “She wants to identify what can be done to make older people safer from fire in their own homes and what older people themselves, public agencies, relatives and neighbours can do to help prevent more tragedies.

“The commissioner expresses her sincere condolences to the family of this morning’s victim and those of other older people who have died in house fires.”

The tragedies have touched rural and urban communities alike across Northern Ireland.

Background

April 3: A woman dies in a blaze at her home on Lisburn’s Maralin Avenue — the fifth person over 60 to die in her home after a fire.

March 14: A 90-year-old woman died after a blaze at her home in Twinbrook area of west Belfast.

March 13: Peggy McGarvey (78) died in a fire at her home in the Linseys Hill area of Armagh.

March 6: Albert Kane (64) died in his Ballymoney home in a blaze.

March 6: Co Down widow Sadie Ferguson (78) died in a house fire.

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