Wheelchair man had no escape as flames took hold

A WHEELCHAIR-bound man has died from severe burns after firefighters burst into his Edinburgh home to find him engulfed in flames.

Police have confirmed the identity of the 63-year-old man as John Steele.

There are no suspicious circumstances and a report will be sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

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Mr Steele was unable to escape the blaze in the sheltered housing complex in Joppa after his clothes caught fire. Firefighters quickly doused the flames but the victim's burns were so severe that he died later in hospital.

Bosses at the Joppa complex today described the death as a "tragic accident" as investigations continued into the blaze, believed to have been caused by either a cigarette or a hob.

Watch manager Andrew Whitelaw, of Newcraighall Fire Station, said crews responded to an automatic fire alarm at the Trust Housing Association property on Queen's Bay Crescent at 12:15pm on Saturday.

He said: "The rest of the residents had already been evacuated or moved to safer parts of the building, and when we went inside we discovered the man in question was on fire.

"They carried out work to get him out of the flat and get the fire extinguished as quickly as possible.

"He was in a wheelchair so he was unable to escape or help himself.

"We followed all of the proper procedures but unfortunately the degree of the fire was quite severe and subsequently the man died."

Mr Steele was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, but he died from his injuries at around 6pm that day.

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Local residents said the sheltered housing was home to a mixture of elderly, disabled and learning disabled residents.

Due to the vulnerable condition of the residents the complex's fire alarm systems triggers an automatic call-out from the fire service, and neighbours said fire engines were a regular sight.

Neighbour Joss Cameron said: "The fire alarms are triggered regularly by residents burning food so the fire brigade are called out quite often.

"It's not really the best place for a sheltered housing complex as it's a narrow road with cars parked on either side so it's not the easiest road to gain access to.

"We don't really speak to the residents much apart from the odd hello during the summer, but you do see them most days heading off to the local pub."

Mr Whitelaw said fire crews did not encounter any access problems, and arrived at the scene "well within the expected timescale".

Trust Housing Association chief executive Bob McDougall expressed his "deep regret" over Mr Steele's death.

He said: "This was a tragic accident and we will await the outcome of an investigation into the circumstances of the fire before we can comment further.

"The man's next of kin has been informed by the police.

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"It's hard to say how often fire engines are called out to the complex but we sometimes get false alarms as a result of residents burning toast, or something similar.

"The very fact that complex receives regular call outs is an indication that our automatic fire detection system works."