OVER half of all fatal house fires in the region in recent years have been caused by dropped cigarettes or other smoking materials.

A review by West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service found that of the 53 people to have died in accidental blazes in the last five years, 27 had died in fires started by smoking materials.

Other common factors were found to be mental health issues and age.

And over two thirds of victims lived alone at the time of the fire.

The service has recently carried out a study of all accidental fatal house fires that took place in the county between 2012 and last year.

The findings have been discussed by the West Yorkshire Fire Authority’s community safety committee.

The report found that of the 53 people who died in house fires, 64 per cent lived alone, 50 per cent were over the age of 55 and 55 per cent were smokers.

Smoking materials were found to be the cause in 27 out of the 53 cases (51 per cent) and nine people died from fires caused by cooking.

The findings also show that fatal house fires are more likely to happen in deprived areas, and 62 per cent occurred in properties described as terraced housing or a flat/bedsit.

Thirty-two per cent of fatal house fires start in the bedroom, and 38 per cent in the living room.

By studying the incidents, the service found that in most cases there was more than one “risk factor”, including smoking, old age, impairment or “poor housekeeping”.

The report says: “Smoking materials caused much fewer dwelling fires (558 which equates to nine per cent) yet resulted in significantly more fatalities compared to any other cause.

“The key prevention message is around the danger of falling asleep whilst smoking.

“While national and local prevention campaigns have focussed on preventing fires caused by carelessly-discarded cigarettes, smoking materials were still the most common cause of ignition.”

Other fatal fires were caused by electrical faults or by naked flames, such as candles.

Of the victims, 24 were known to other agencies such as social services or charities.

Nine of those 24 did have some interaction with the fire service and received some interventions, such as home safety advice. However, in another five cases the person had previously refused support from West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service.

One fatal house fire in this period occurred in Alice Street, Haworth in June 2015, when 87-year-old Bramwell Schofield died following a blaze in his home.

At his inquest it was heard Mr Schofield was a hoarder who was deaf and lived alone.

It was said he had refused help from family.

The inquest found the fire was caused by either a dropped pipe, smouldering ashes from one of Mr Schofield’s ten pipes or a discarded match.

To reduce the risk of fire, the brigade advises smokers to smoke outside wherever possible and never smoke in bed.

People are also urged to avoid smoking when feeling drowsy or if they are affected by alcohol or drugs.

And always check you have fully extinguished your cigarette when you have finished and dispose of it in an ashtray, preferably with a little water in the bottom.