WILTSHIRE Fire & Rescue Service has spoken out about the importance of fire alarms following the inquest into the death of Victoria Stockman.

Last week the Coroner’s Court in Salisbury heard how the 33-year-old, who died after a discarded cigarette set a cover on her sofa alight, might still be alive had a fire alarm been installed in her ground-floor flat in Rodbourne.

Watch manager Neil Chamberlain, from the fire service’s prevention department, said that smoking is responsible for many domestic fires, and that it only takes a couple of breaths of smoke to cause someone to become unconscious.

He said: “Unfortunately, it is far too easy to accidentally leave a cigarette burning in an ashtray, or to fall asleep while smoking.

“It’s a sad fact that more people die in smoking material related fires than any other. While cigarettes are the cause of less than 10 per cent of all fires, they actually account for around a third of all fire deaths.

“Looking at our statistical records in the last five years there have sadly been three fatalities in Wiltshire and Swindon as a result of fires which occurred in properties where no fire alarms were installed which would probably have been avoided had there been working smoke alarms.

“You’re more than four times as likely to survive a fire if you have a working smoke alarm. They can give you and your family the necessary warning to get out in the early stages of a fire, which should in turn allow us to get to you more quickly.”

Mr Chamberlain also reminded families that even if you do have a working fire alarm which you test every week, working out an escape plan and reducing the fire risk is equally important.

He said: “A working smoke alarm can give people the warning they need to get out of their home should the worst happen, but a blocked exit, a locked door or unfamiliar surroundings can often shave vital seconds from the time it takes to escape.”

Candles are another common fire starter with 40 per cent of candle-started fires leading to death or injury.

Meanwhile more than 50 per cent of fires attended by the Fire & Rescue Service nationally start in the kitchen, prompting reminders to take care while cooking in the home.

In the past year, Wiltshire Fire & Rescue have carried out 3,000 free home fire safety checks and fitted 6,000 smoke alarms in people’s homes.

The service can provide free fire home safety checks for vulnerable people in the community, including those living alone, aged 65 or over, in homes where an occupant has a long term limiting illness or physical or mental impairment, where adult occupants have never worked, families with children aged five or under, in houseboats, thatched houses or mobile homes, and in households occupied by smokers.