Grieving grandmother's safety plea

A GRIEVING Suffolk grandmother today joined forces with firefighters in bid to avoid further tragedy after the second death involving portable electric fires this year.

A GRIEVING Suffolk grandmother today joined forces with firefighters in bid to avoid further tragedy after the second death involving portable electric fires this year.

Hardly able to fight back the tears Jacinta Fox spoke out after an investigation indicated 98-year-old Ivy Orriss died as a result of sitting too close to a two bar portable heater.

The death of the pensioner, who lived just three streets away from Anton Fox's Marlow Road home in Ipswich, bears a chilling similarity to the way in which the seven-year-old lost his life five months ago.

Investigations by the fire service have revealed that her clothes or her chair almost certainly caught fire because she was sitting too close to a two bar portable electric heater.

A distraught Mrs Fox said the latest incident at High View Road has led to her reliving the nightmare of the day that destroyed her family.

"The death of the poor old lady has brought back all the memories of when little Anton was killed," she said.

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"It's a terrible tragedy and it's imperative that these awful deaths prompt people into taking immediate action.

"Everybody must be told of the dangers of portable heaters."

Assistant Divisional Officer Karl Rolfe, incident commander at the High View Road, confirmed a portable heater is believed to have been responsible.

"The most likely cause was a two-bar electric space heater which was placed too close to Mrs Orriss' clothes or chair, or both," he said.

Although electric fires are not dangerous or unsafe in themselves, firefighters and Mrs Fox are urging people to be aware of the need to take the proper precautions with them. They are especially keen to get the message across to those who have elderly relatives who rely on portable heaters or parents who use them to heat their children's rooms.

Martyn Thorpe, community fire safety officer for Suffolk Fire Service said: "Every year 100 people die and more than 1,000 are injured in their homes as a result of fire caused by heating appliances.

"Many of these fires involved portable heaters. Any type of portable heater can start a fire of it is misused.

"People should make sure they read and understand the manufacturers instructions before using one."

It is thought that little Anton was killed by smoke inhalation after his bedroom caught fire when a two bar heater was placed too close to the foot of his bed on a freezing cold night soon after the New Year.

Mrs Orriss had been living alone for just two weeks, following the death of her son Ray, when her relative Graham Clark arrived at her bungalow last Tuesday afternoon to find her sitting at the kitchen table with her legs and back burning.

Despite his desperate attempts to douse the flames and save her, Mrs Orriss died in Ipswich Hospital within 24 hours.

Although smoke alarms would not have saved Mrs Orris, Mrs Fox also endorsed the installation of smoke detectors in every household in order to spare other families the torment hers has endured.

"For goodness sake get one immediately," she said.

"Don't waste any time, as you never know when something like this will happen.

"For some people it could be tomorrow and it's not worth taking any chances, it could be too late.

"You can never get that person back and for the sake of few pounds events like this can be prevented.

"If this message can save one person's life then it's worth it."


N ALWAYS turn off portable heaters before going to bed.

N ALWAYS follow the manufacturers operating and maintenance instructions.

N DO NOT air or dry clothes over a heater

N DO NOT sit too close or place the heater near to furniture, bedding or curtains.

N DO NOT place heaters where they are likely to be knocked over

N Portable heaters should not be left on if young children or animals are left alone.

N Position the flex so that it will not be tripped over or passed beneath doors or other obstacles, which may cause it to become frayed.

N Plug the heater directly into the socket – avoid using multi-way adapter plugs.

N Fit a fuse of the correct rating in the plug.

N DO NOT control a radiant heater with a time switch.

N Unplug the heater when it is not in use.