Cigarette to blame for child hurt in house blaze

A FIRE which left a toddler horrifically burned and was thought to have been started by his three-year-old sister and four-year-old brother was caused by an adult's lit cigarette, fire investigators believe.

Almost half of Aaron Manclark's body was burned in the fire and surgeons were forced to amputate two of his toes because he suffered extensive nerve damage.

His mother Louise Manclark, who was left homeless after the fire, said she believed the blaze was sparked by Aaron's brother and sister after they played with matches in the infant's room.

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But in an official report, investigators from Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service have concluded that "the most probable cause of the fire was accidental by an adult with smoker's materials".

Aaron, who is now 21 months old, suffered 45 per cent burns in the fire which took place at his home at Dean Terrace in Edinburgh on December 29 last year. He was in the intensive care unit at the Capital's Sick Kids Hospital for ten days and spent a further three months under the watchful eye of specialists at the hospital.

He now receives regular physiotherapy sessions and was measured for special garments to protect his skin as it heals.

He is expected to have to endure on-going operations until he reaches adulthood.

Mrs Manclark, 33, originally contacted the Evening News because the council had been unsuccessful rehousing her and her three children.

She claimed she plucked Aaron, whose clothes and body were alight, from his cot after his three-year-old sister Chelsea and four-year-old brother Mark set fire to his bedroom. At the time, Mrs Manclark, who also received injuries to her stomach and arms as she carried Aaron's burning body to safety, told the News: "I don't normally keep matches in the house and I'll never keep them in the house again.

"I would say that people with kids should never keep matches in reach and should always make sure their smoke alarm is working."

Mrs Manclark, who was also staying in hospital accommodation while Aaron recovered from his injuries, said she felt too traumatised to return to the badly smoke-damaged council property.

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Following a blaze, fire officers interview people at the scene of the incident as part of their routine investigation to determine the cause.

A fire brigade spokeswoman said the seat of the fire was in a bedroom.

The emergency services were alerted after a smoke alarm was triggered in the four-bedroom council flat.

The spokeswoman added: "It could have been a lot worse had there not been a smoke detector.

"It was concluded that the most probable cause of the fire was accidental by an adult with smokers materials."

Despite repeated attempts, Mrs Manclark could not be contacted for comment.

Recent Scottish Executive figures showed that 44 per cent of accidental fires in Scottish homes were caused by cigarettes, lighters and matches.

The statistics also showed that, in 2004, Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service dealt with 343 fires - the second highest number in Scotland.

Ten people also died in fires in the region during the same period.

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