Death after electric blanket fire triggers warning

No recommendations were made from the case, but with winter approaching, the Coroner did endorse fire safety advice from Fire and Emergency.

The Coroner is advising people to consider the fire risk of their electric blankets after a Wellington woman died when hers caught fire.

Ann McAllister, 82, died from "inhalation of products of combustion".

Firefighters found McAllister dead in her bed, with her dog beside her, about 7.30am on January 3, 2023.

The source of the fire appeared to be her electric blanket, which had been left on at the highest heat setting.

A fire investigation report found the point of origin of the fire appeared to be the southwest corner of the mattress.

Specialist fire investigator Brendon Allen concluded the circumstances of the fire were accidental.

He found the most probable cause of the fire was the electric blanket overheating on the southwest corner "resulting in the slow smouldering combustion of the mattress and bedding".

No fire alarms appeared to be installed, Allen said.

Coroner Mark Wilton noted McAllister's daughter had told police she had bought her mother a new electric blanket to replace her old worn one. But after the fire, the new blanket was found in a cupboard.

Wilton said McAllister's death was a "tragic accident".

No recommendations were made, but with winter approaching Wilton did endorse fire safety advice from Fire and Emergency (FENZ).

FENZ recommended people replace or get an electrician to inspect any worn electric blankets and replace them every five years, and to always switch electric blankets off before going to bed.

It also advised putting photoelectric smoke alarms in every bedroom, living area and hallway of the home.


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