Fireman Paul home death blaze started by cigarette

A BLAZE that killed an off-duty firefighter looks to have been started by a cigarette, it was revealed today.

• Paul Fleming was well known in his community

Paul Fleming, 39, passed away at his home on Saturday morning after a fire started in his bed at home in East Linton.

A passer-by noticed smoke billowing from the property, in Longstone Avenue, at around 7am. Firefighters spent three hours battling the blaze, but the dad of two died at the scene.

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It is thought that he had been on a night out with friends just hours before the tragedy.

Mr Fleming, a full-time firefighter in Dalkeith, was much loved by his family and friends, who said he was well known and helpful in his community.

Today, his family said they had been left "devastated" by his death.

In a statement, they said: "We are all completely devastated by Paul's death. He was loved by his family and will be greatly missed. Paul loved his job and was hugely popular amongst his colleagues.

"He always went out of his way to help people, and was well known in the local community for his kindness and willingness to always help others. He was a hero to his two children, and a wonderful father."

Mr Fleming leaves behind two children, Isla and Lewis, who are believed to be nine and 11. His wife Diane, from whom he had recently split, is a local police officer.

One resident, who asked not to be named, said the local community was finding it hard to get over his death.

She said: "He was incredibly popular. Paul was a smoker, and we heard the fire had been caused that way. It is a horrible situation."

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Barry Craighead, 73, a retired joiner who worked with Paul in the local community hall, said: "This is a tragedy for the whole street. I knew Paul very well, he was a terrific guy and very good in the community.

"He was a brilliant neighbour and a brilliant friend. Everybody is upset."

Paul, 39, was living away from the marital home, but returned after the night out. His wife and children were away, which Mr Craighead added was "a blessing".

Another neighbour, welder Graham Bell, 40, said: "Paul was a really helpful guy, he would help anybody out."

Lothian and Borders fire service assistant chief officer Alex Clark said: "It was with great sadness and regret that I informed staff today of the tragic death of one of our colleagues from Dalkeith White Watch.

"The off-duty firefighter lost his life in a fire at home. Despite the best efforts of our colleagues from East Linton and Haddington who responded to his aid, he sadly died at the scene.

"We offer our most heartfelt condolences to his family."