Care home facing massive fine after inadequate fire safety precautions led to fatal blaze

Irene Cockerton, 87, from west London, died in the fire at Gibson Court, Hinchley Wood, in September 2011

Inadequate fire safety precautions led to the death of an 87-year-old widow in her smoke-filled flat after a raging inferno engulfed the roof of a block of retirement apartments

The blaze, which claimed the life of Irene Cockerton from west London, swept through the loft of Gibson Court in a matter of minutes because there were no compartmental walls to check its progress

The fire was accelerated by a build-up of cooking grease caused by the kitchen vents of the flats, which opened into the roof space instead of through outside walls, the court was told.

Poor staff training in emergency exit procedures also put the lives of Mrs Cockerton’s 22 fellow residents and their fire-fighting rescuers in peril, the hearing heard.

The four-count indictment admitted by Firstport covered a host of failings by the Hampshire-based company, including:

  • Omitting to carry out a suitable risk assessment which placed Mrs Cockerton and others in danger of death and serious injury from fire
  • Significant breaches in the integrity of roof space compartmentalisation which increased the spread of the flames
  • Greasy vapours and deposits from kitchens increased the danger of a blaze spreading
  • Failing to put in place a proper evacuation procedure in the event of a fire, particularly in view of the vulnerability of residents.
  • Omitting to act on warnings given earlier by people who had carried out past inspections and allowing the condition of the roof space fire curtains to fall into disrepair
  • Area and house managers not given satisfactory training – a failure which placed one or more persons at risk of death and injury in case of fire.

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