Gas fire sparked blaze that killed St Helens war hero

Eric Hougton
Eric Hougton
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  • Pensioner had been contacted several times by fire brigade before his death
  • He declined crews’ safety advice
  • Gas fire placed near bed in his home blamed for blaze

A war veteran who died after his bed caught fire had repeatedly declined offers of a fire safety check at his home.

An inquest into the death of Eric Houghton (pictured) was told that the pensioner had been contacted several times by firefighters in the months before his death.

Crews were quickly on scene and firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the property

District manager Chris Case

But the great great-grandfather - a Second World War veteran - had declined all offers of a home fire safety check.

Mr Houghton was found dead at his home on Samuel Street, Sutton Heath, after firefighters were called to a blaze at his property on the night of November 21 last year.

Fire investigators found that a gas fire had been on in the room and had been placed as little as four inches away from Mr Houghton’s bedding - which subsequently caught fire.

An inquest at St Helens Town Hall heard how the 88-year-old, a diabetic former Pilks worker who lived alone, had suffered a fall in his bedroom on the morning before the fire.

But he refused to go to hospital. Then, shortly before 11.30pm that night, firefighters from St Helens, Eccleston, Whiston and the force’s incident management team were called to the scene after a neighbour reported smelling smoke.

Fire crews subsequently discovered Mr Houghton’s body on a bed in the rear lounge of the property, which he used as a bedroom, while tackling the ferocious blaze.

The room was left with extensive fire damage and the heat generated by the blaze caused the ceiling to melt.

No fitted smoke alarm was found at the house.

District manager Chris Case said at the time: “Crews were quickly on scene and firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the property. There was a well-developed fire in the property when crews arrived.

“Sadly, the body of an elderly man was discovered inside.”

He added: “Smoke alarms can give a vital early warning of a fire. We urge people to have working smoke alarms on each level of their home.”

A post mortem examination found that Mr Houghton is thought to have died as a result of smoke inhalation.

Coroner Christopher Sumner recorded a verdict of accidental death.