Children's fire deaths 'preventable', Derby Coroner's Court told

A house fire which killed four children in Derbyshire could have been prevented by a fire guard, an inquest has heard.

Tommy Henson, nine, Alisha Henson-Nulty, six, Rocco Henson-Nulty, four, and Appolonia Henson, two, died at the property in Hulland Ward on 24 January.

Chief fire investigation officer Christopher Smith told the inquest the fire had started after a loose ember or log fell on to the carpet.

He said a fire guard would have prevented the fire.

Mr Smith told the inquest at Derby Coroner's Court that examinations of the property after the fire found there were no working smoke or heat detectors in the house.

One battery-powered smoke alarm was found on the first-floor landing but tests showed it had no battery fitted, he said.

'Burning log'

Two hard-wire smoke alarms had also been disconnected from the mains, along with a heat detector.

Mr Smith said the fire began in the lounge on the ground floor and spread to the bedrooms above, where the children were sleeping.

He told the inquest: "The most likely cause of the fire was accidental resulting from the ignition of items around the fire; hot coal or a burning log falling from the open fire, or a hot wooden ember being ejected from the fire."

When asked by Coroner Robert Hunter if he thought the presence of a fire guard would have prevented the fire, he answered: "Yes, in my opinion it would."

Mr Smith, who described the blaze as "an extreme fire with zero visibility", said the family had only had the open fire for a relatively short time after changing from a flame effect gas fire.

'Not life or death'

The inquest heard evidence that wet logs could have been placed on the fire, causing the water inside to boil and split, meaning burning or hot embers could escape.

Matthew Ramsden, a chimney engineer, told the coroner that moisture tests carried out on wood used at the family home revealed it was over the usual moisture levels.

Clint Eyre, partner of the children's mother Rachel Henson, said the family had considered getting a fire grate but did not think it was a "life or death matter".

Ms Henson managed to escape from the property in Highfield Road but was unable to get back inside to rescue her children.

Neighbours tried to reach them as the fire swept through the house but could not open the front door.

Ms Henson left the courtroom in tears as details from post-mortem reports for each of the children were read out.

The inquest continues.

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