WHALEY THORNS CHRISTMAS BLAZE TRAGEDY: Fire chiefs issue appeal

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INVESTIGATIONS are still continuing after a pensioner died in a fire at a house in Whaley Thorns in the early hours of Christmas Eve - and on Tuesday fire chiefs said that the Whaley Thorns and Langwith area is particularly vunerable to house blazes.

The 65-year-old victim, named locally as Norma Sweeney, was killed when the blaze took hold at around 5am on Christmas Eve.

.Floral tributes at Mary Street

.Floral tributes at Mary Street

Police said the woman was unable to escape the mid-terraced house on Mary Street and died despite “valiant” efforts of fire crews.

A number of other people escaped through a bedroom window and the front door and were treated for smoke inhalation at King’s Mill Hospital. Neighbours said that it is believed that they included her husband Bob, daughter and a friend,

Neighbours were also evacuated from adjoining properties.

Floral tributes have been left at the scene of the fire. One reads: “A truly beautiful lady who will be missed by so many.

“Cruelly taken away from us. I’ll think of you and instantly smile. This is not goodbye.”

Derbyshire Police and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, who have launched a joint investigation into the cause of the fire, say the incident is not being treated as suspicious at this stage.

A police spokesman added: “Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the family and friends at this sad time.”

Fire crews from Shirebrook, Bolsover, Clowne, Staveley and Warsop attended the scene initially, with further crews arriving from Chesterfield and Ripley to join the operation.

When they arrived the property was well alight with damage also being caused to the surrounding properties which had to be evacuated.

On Tuesday Derbyshire Fire and Rescue said it had identified the Whaley Thorns and Langwith area as particularly vulnerable to house blazes, and firefighters from Bolsover, Shirebrook and Alfreton were knocking on doors offering home fire safety checks.

There will also be a stall on Shirebrook market all day on Friday offering advice.

Station manager Alan Richmond said: “Both this fire and another one in Derbyshire on Christmas Day could have been prevented by the use of fitted and working smoke alarms.

“Firefighters are now adopting a direct engagement strategy by visiting homes across the area, fitting and testing alarms and providing other advice such as escape plans.”

He said an investigation into the cause of the Christmas Eve fire was continuing.