London Fire Brigade

Unsafe cigarettes warning following inquest into double fatal

27 August 2014

We've issued an urgent warning after an inquest today heard that two people died in a house fire caused by unsafe cigarettes which did not conform with European Union safety standards.

Mother Caroline Kaur and daughter Hayleigh Kaur died at a house fire on Purrett Road in Plumstead on 18 June last year.

Our fire investigators believe the fire was caused by cigarettes and ash discarded into a wicker bin.

Less safe cigarettes

Investigators found a packet of cigarettes which were made in India and so didn't have the special design to which all cigarettes legally sold in the UK are made, that helps the cigarettes go out if they are left burning. 

We're urging all smokers to only buy cigarettes that meet European Union safety standards and never to throw smouldering cigarettes or hot ash into rubbish bins. The cigarettes involved in this case were duty free and were not illegal or counterfeit.

Half of accidental fatal fires last year were caused by smoking and nearly ten fires a week are caused by the careless disposal of cigarettes.

Last year, the Brigade saw a 13 per cent reduction in the number of fires caused by cigarettes.

This is less than the Brigade had hoped. It had been estimated that cigarette fires could be slashed by as much as a third because of the introduction of safer cigarettes.

Illicit cigarettes and cigarettes brought in from outside the EU for personal use could be one of the factors to blame.

Smoke alarms essential

Smoke alarms alerted the family to the blaze without them the family believe this incident could have more tragic consequences. The Kaur family are urging people to check they have working smoke alarms.

The inquest also found that a smoke alarm had alerted the family to the fire. The Coroner noted that while it was tragic that two people lost their lives, more people could have died if it wasn’t for the alarm.

Mr. Singh  who lost a wife and daughter in the house fire was keen promote the importance of  a working smoke alarm in every home.

He said: "It is essential that everyone tests their smoke alarms and make sure you replace the batteries immediately if they don’t work.

"My wife had replaced the batteries in our smoke alarms just days before the fire and if we hadn't done that it is likely that the whole family would have died.

"It's vital that you know what to do if there is a fire in your home, have a clear escape plan and keep door and window keys where everyone you live with can find them."

The inquest was heard at Southwark Coroners' Court on Wednesday, 27 August. The coroner asked for the media to show sensitivity when reporting the case. We would also ask media not to try and contact the family directly.