Wiltshire

Swindon fatal house fire started by portable heater

Sharon Soares and Blaise Alvares
Image caption Sharon Soares and Blaise Alvares were caught in the house fire on 6 November

A couple who could not afford central heating died in a house fire started by a portable heater, an inquest heard.

Blaise Alvares and Sharon Soares, who had a baby girl, died following the fire at their Swindon home in November.

The couple shared the house with another family, relying on bio-ethanol heaters to stay warm as they could not afford the central heating bills.

Assistant coroner Nicholas Rheinburg recorded conclusions of accidental death.

The inquest heard the three-bedroom terrace house in Manchester Road did not have any working smoke alarms.

Too expensive

Both families who lived there relied on portable heaters as the central heating was too expensive to run, the inquest was told.

Fire investigator Michael Bagnall said: "The most likely cause was it was an accident with the use of this bio-fuel burner.

"I can't completely discount an electrical fault but the most likely cause was the bio-fuel burner.

"It was a particularly cold night and I find it difficult to believe that there was no sort of heating being used."

Image caption The fire started at the couple's home in Manchester Road in Swindon

Mr Bagnall added he believed this type of heater was not safe for indoor use and that fires often started during re-filling.

He said he also knew of one fatality in Staffordshire in 2012.

Assistant coroner, Mr Rheinburg said: "I find as a fact that it was a bio-ethanol fuelled fire that caused the blaze, flammable material coming into contact with the heat source."

He added that he would write to the Chief Fire Officers Association about the tragedy and its link to this type of portable heater.

Mrs Soares died three days after the fire from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Her husband died two days before Christmas due to complications from serious burns.

Survivor Gracino Fernandes, who was rescued by his son, told Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner's Court: "I thought I was going to die in the house."

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