Burnley man's house fire death caused by cigarette
A WHEELCHAIR-bound man died in a blaze in a sheltered housing flat believed to have been started by his discarded cigarette.
The body of the victim, named locally as Jimmy Thompson, 57, was found by firemen in the bedroom of his home in Kay Gardens, Burnley, but his black labrador Vic was rescued from the burning property.
Fire crews were called to the ground floor flat at around 1am yesterday.
The former engineer had lived in the flat for around five or six years, and had been forced to use a wheelchair after suffering two heart attacks.
His friend and near neighbour Jim Graham, 59, believes he was the last person to see Mr Thompson alive, and has taken in his pal’s dog.
“I’ve been walking Jimmy’s dog for quite a few years,” he said. “I had a dog of my own but it died and one day I saw his carers and they said the dog didn’t get out much, so I offered to walk it.
“I would take it out in the morning and night, and sometimes in the afternoon.”
At around 9.10pm on Wednesday Mr Graham said he went to collect Vic for his nightly walk.
“Jimmy was in bed but I have a key so let myself in to get Vic,” he added. “I shouted up to Jimmy and he said he was ok and that there was water out for Vic. I brought Vic back then said ‘see you tomorrow morning’.
“He was just his normal self, I couldn’t believe it when I went round this morning to hear the news, it really upset me.”
Mr Thompson, who has a sister and two brothers locally, was visited by carers in the morning, afternoon and evening. The last visit was between 7.30pm and 8pm, when he usually goes to bed.
Mr Graham said he had never planned on having a dog again, but he had made a promise to ‘Jimmy’ to take Vic in should anything happen.
“I enjoy walking Vic, “ he said,” it gets me out and keeps me fit. Jimmy once said to me ‘will you look after him if anything happens to me?’, and I said ‘of course’, never thinking that something like this would happen.
“But I made a promise to him and I can’t abandon Vic now. Apparently he is 15 or 16 years old but he is very healthy for his age. He is a really friendly dog, he is no trouble at all.”
Mr Graham described his friend as a ‘good bloke’.
“I used to have a laugh with him,” he said, “we would have blokes’ banter together. He was a friendly guy and he was really good to me, he helped me out by being able to walk Vic.
“He did like to smoke and he would drink as well, although he hadn’t had a drink for four or five days.
“He was usually in his wheelchair. He could stand up but he was very unsteady on his feet. He had had two or three heart attacks and he couldn’t move down his left side.”
Another neighbour, 87-year-old John Monks said: “He was quite a quiet bloke, he kept himself to himself, but he was always someone who would say hello.
“He was in a wheelchair but he would get a taxi in to town and to local pubs and clubs a few days during the week.”
Police have not yet formally named Mr Thompson, who has a sister who lives nearby, and two brothers who live in the Burnley area.
The incident is the second fatal house fire in Burnley in five days, after 21-year-old Katrina Rose Black died on Sunday night in Manchester Road, Hapton.
Two fire engines from Burnley and one from Nelson attended the scene after the alarm was raised by neighbours. There was a fire alarm in the flat but it was believed to be not working.
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