Man leaps from window to escape electric blanket blaze

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UPDATE

By Shaun Milne & Christine Lavelle

FIRE chiefs believe a blaze at a three-storey block of flats in Edinburgh may have been caused by an electric blanket.

Three people – including a man who leaped from a top-floor window – are being treated in hospital, and a family-of-four was rescued from the building on Craighouse Park in the Morningside area of the city.

Emergency services were called to the scene at around 7.45pm yesterday (Monday), and two ambulances took an elderly couple who lived in the ground floor flat – where the blaze broke out – to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

They were said to be suffering from severe smoke inhalation, while another man who jumped from a third floor window was taken to the same hospital.

His condition was not yet known.

A family including two young children were led to safety from their home on the second floor, and the children were given oxygen at the scene.

Mike Partington, group manager at Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said: “The fire started in the bedroom of the ground floor flat, occupied by an elderly couple in their 80s.

“Initial investigations suggest that the cause may have been an electric blanket that had been put on earlier in the evening.

“By the time the couple – a man aged 84 and a woman aged 81 – realised there was a fire, the bedroom was well alight and the flat was filling up with thick black smoke.

“They managed to make their way through heavy smoke filling the hallway and out to a neighbour.

“Both suffered severe smoke inhalation.

“A man who lived on the top floor of the building jumped to safety and was found in the rear garden by firefighters who administered first aid until he was taken to hospital.

“Another female occupant of the building suffered smoke inhalation and firefighters used a ladder to climb to the back window of a family of four.

“Because the couple had young children aged four and two, a decision was taken to send the firefighter through the window into their home.

“Oxygen was given to the family and fire crews stayed with them giving reassurance and advice until the danger had passed.”

He said it took six firefighters wearing breathing apparatus around an hour to extinguish the fire.

The bedroom of the flat where the blaze started was completely gutted and the rest of the property was heavily smoke and fire damaged.

Mr Partinton warned of the dangers of electric blankets left unattended as they come back into use for the cold weather.

He said: “If they have been stored incorrectly, as in folded, the wires can be damaged and the risk of malfunction is increased.

“I would urge people with elderly relatives who may use electric blankets to check the condition before use.

“If in doubt, a qualified electrician can make the appropriate safety checks.

“It’s not clear in this case if there was a working smoke alarm in the property but again make sure you and any elderly relatives or friends have a smoking alarm – test it every week.

“Firefighters in your area can fit a smoke alarm for free as part of a home safety visit, to find out more call 0800 169 0320.”

Figures released today (Tuesday) by Fire Statistics Scotland show that between 2009 and 2010, the total number of fires in Scotland was 38,658 – around five per cent less than the year before.

There were 59 fire fatalities during this period, which has dropped by five on the year before, and is the second lowest in the last 11 years.

Non-fatal casualties reached 1,195, with around 85 per cent of these coming from dwelling fires – those which caused considerable damage to property.

The figures also show that the number of false alarms attended by fire crews was 51,954 in 2009-10, with 79 per cent of these caused by a failure of apparatus.

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