‘Funding cuts are leaving St Helens OAPs at risk from house fires’

Roy Nelson
Roy Nelson
  • Inquests rule gas fire were involved in two St Helens pensioners’ deaths
  • Fears more OAPs are using the devices because of worries about energy costs
  • Charity calls for more funding to conduct safety checks
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A “worrying” lack of funding is leaving St Helens pensioners more at risk of harm from serious house fires, charity bosses today warn.

The local boss of Age UK has called for more cash to help them prevent house fires following three fatal blazes in the borough over the past few months.

Eric Houghton

Eric Houghton

Three St Helens pensioners were found dead following separate house fires - all involving the use of gas fires.

Mark Lunney, the chief executive of Age UK Mid Mersey, said: “Our older population struggle to get the support they desperately need to carry out checks and precautions and, with the challenges locally to funding schemes like our stay safe service, the situation looks worrying.

“Age UK could carry out more checks if funding was made available. Every home should have a working smoke alarm.

“More than two thirds of fire-related deaths occur in dwelling fires and more than half of the victims are 65 years or older. The risk of dying in a fire for people aged 80 and over is more than four times higher than average.

Our older population struggle to get the support they desperately need to carry out checks and precautions and, with the challenges locally to funding schemes like our stay safe service, the situation looks worrying

Mark Lunney, the chief executive of Age UK Mid Mersey

“Many of these people are likely to live alone and many of these incidents could be avoided by carrying out simple checks and precautions on a regular basis.”

Firefighters discovered a 73-year-old woman’s body after being called to a ferocious house fire on Birchfield Street, Thatto Heath, at the end of January.

Crews subsequently visited more than 120 homes in the area to carry out home fire safety checks as part of a reassurance campaign.

Elderly householders Roy Nelson, 75, and Eric Houghton, 88, were also found dead following house fires in Holford Way, Newton-le-Willows, and Samuel Street, St Helens, before Christmas.

All of the blazes are believed to have been sparked by gas fires.

Mr Lunney added: “I would urge people to contact the fire service for advice or assistance. Older people are at greater risk due to a range of health and social care needs and those who needs support can come in and speak with our information and advice teams on how Age UK can help.

“There are many of our older generation who sadly now live alone and are isolated and lonely.

“If you know of any older neighbours, particularly those who live alone.”