Careless smoking death toll rose with latest fatal fire: Investigator
London Free Press

Take it outside. And if you can’t do that, be super careful indoors.

That’s the message London’s deputy fire chief is sending to the community after investigators say careless smoking is to blame for a deadly blaze at a northwest London highrise last week, the fifth fire death in the city caused by careless smoking in little more than five years.

“If you smoke inside your home, you have a higher risk of having a fire inside your home than anybody else,” said Jack Burt.

“Do everything you can to stop that fire from happening and the best way to do that, if you are going to continue to smoke, is to do it outside.

“And if you do smoke inside, make sure you have a deep enough ashtray to put (the cigarette) out, and when you do put it out, you do it right and you do it every time.”

London police and firefighters responded to a fire on the seventh floor of a 14-storey building at 595 Proudfoot Lane, near the Oxford Street and Wonderland Road intersection, shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Feb. 24.

A man inside the unit was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead, said police, who aren’t making public the deceased’s name.

“The 57-year-old male victim’s cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation and the cause of the fire was careless smoking,” police said in a statement issued Monday.

Burt singled out careless smoking as the leading cause of fires in the city and the main reason behind the latest deadly fires in London.

Since 2014, there have been six fire deaths in the city. Of those, five have been related to careless smoking, Burt said.

He also said all but one of all the fires last year in London related to careless smoking were caused by contraband cigarettes, which left close to $2.1 million in damages.

Unlike store-bought smokes — made with special paper that burns more slowly and will self-extinguish — the illegal ones don’t have any safety features, making them more likely to ignite furniture, clothing and other combustibles if left unattended.

In last week’s fire, investigators found both conventional and contraband cigarettes in the apartment’s living room – the area where the fire originated, Burt said.

“Based on our knowledge of how contraband cigarettes burn, it is highly probable they were part of the cause, but we can’t determine that specifically,” he said.

Burt said investigators also are trying to determine if the apartment’s fire alarm was working at the time of the fire.

“There are mixed messages at the scene whether it was working or not working,” he said, while reminding people to make sure their homes have functioning fire alarms.

“People need to understand that this can happen to them,” he said. “If you are smoking and you are careless with your smoking . . . you could hurt yourself and kill yourself or someone else around you.”

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