Concerns were repeatedly raised about a man’s “years of hoarding” prior to a flat fire that ended his life.
Henry Boddy, 60, was found unconscious in the hallway of his fourth floor flat after a fire broke out in the early hours of November 4 last year.
Fire crews rescued him from the burning building, before he was resuscitated at the scene by London Ambulance Service paramedics.
Mr Boddy, a retired labourer born in Ireland, was then rushed to University College London Hospital, but died of his injuries later the same day.
Six fire engines and 40 firefighters attended the incident in Bridgeway Street, King’s Cross, at 1.51am, remaining at the scene for around three hours until the blaze was eventually under control.
A subsequent post-mortem gave a medical cause of death of hypoxic brain damage, out of hospital cardio-respiratory arrest and smoke inhalation.
A Prevention of Future Deaths report has been written by assistant coroner Dr Richard Brittain following an inquest into Mr Boddy’s death at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on June 25.
The report, addressed to Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities Lord Greenhalgh, has been written due to “multiple concerns” having been raised about the property regarding fire risks prior to the fatal blaze.
The inquest concluded that Mr Boddy “died from the consequence of a fire at his own residence” that had arisen from “recognised risks, on the background of health conditions from which he suffered”.
The conclusion added that there were “missed opportunities” to address these risks, but this did not amount to any neglect.
The fire was found to have been caused by either “unsafe use of candles for lighting or usage use/disposal of smoking materials”.
The condition of the flat had been recognised to pose a fire risk, owing to the “accumulation of a fire load because of hoarding behaviour” that had been ongoing for many years.
Multiple concerns had been raised about the risk and steps taken to address it. However, the hoarding continued and, as a result, the risk recurred.
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Evidence heard at the inquest related to steps taken or not taken in order to address the risks.
Assistant coroner Dr Brittain said he was satisfied that Camden Council has “taken or [is] taking steps to address the matters of concerns raised”.
However, one issue remained unaddressed relating to matters outside of the council’s control.
The inquest heard evidence that statutory powers do not exist to address concerns regarding fire risk as a consequence of hoarding in a residential property.
A witness from the council set out that fire safety issues can only be addressed through contemporaneous enforcement of environmental health powers, under legislation intended to address infestation, the report said.
In this circumstance, environmental health officers did not attend the property nor address the concerns about an infestation with rodents, as it was felt that there was insufficient evidence provided.
The report added that this conclusion was inappropriate.
The coroner wrote one “matter of concern” that must be addressed in order to prevent a risk of future deaths.
He said: “I am aware that the Government has recently consulted on and responded to potential additional fire safety measures.
“However, from the evidence I heard at this inquest and from my review of the Government’s response, I am concerned that there is a gap in enforcement powers, as they relate to addressing fire risks in residential properties; specifically in this circumstance, the risks of a fire load arising from hoarding behaviour.”
If you knew Mr Boddy and would like to contribute to a tribute article in his memory, email [email protected]