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Electric bike left charging believed to be cause of Cambridge fire that claimed lives of woman and children, 4 and 8

An electric bike left charging is believed to be the cause of the fire in Cambridge that claimed the life of a woman and two children.

A fire investigation concluded the blaze at the two-storey maisonette in Sackville Close, King’s Hedges, in the early hours of Friday (June 30) was started accidentally.

The scene of the fire on Sackville Close, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
The scene of the fire on Sackville Close, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Gemma Germeney, 31, died at the scene, while Lilly Peden, 8, and Oliver Peden, 4, were taken to hospital but sadly died later. A man in his 30s, who managed to escape the flat before firefighters arrived, suffered serious injuries and remains in hospital in a critical condition.

Area commander Stuart Smith, from Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “Fire service and specialist fire investigators, together with police forensic teams and a fire dog, have spent the weekend carrying out a thorough investigation of the maisonette.

“A fire investigation looks for the most probable cause and in this case, we believe that to be an electric bike that was charging.”

The tragedy came just days after the Cambridge Independent reported how Cambridge’s station commander James Ball had raised the alarm about e-bikes and e-scooters being left charging overnight after another flat fire in King’s Hedges, in which an e-scooter’s battery overheated and the sleeping owners only survived thanks to a smoke alarm.

The scene of the fire on Sackville Close, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
The scene of the fire on Sackville Close, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Mr Smith continued: “We know e-bikes and e-scooters are popular modes of personal transport at the moment and we are urging anyone with one to be aware of the potential risks and follow simple precautions to reduce the likelihood of the batteries overheating.

“We also know that regardless of the cause, devastating incidents like this make people think about fire safety in general at home and as well as having lots of information on our website, our fire safety team will be in the Sackville Close area over the next few days to share advice and offer reassurance.”

E-bike and e-scooter advice

The fire service reiterated advice on e-bike and e-scooter safety, urging users:
- To avoid charging the battery overnight
- Not to leave them charging for any longer than they need to fully charge
- To plug the cable into a main socket rather than an extension lead
- Not to cover the battery with anything while charging
- Ensure they use the battery recommended by the manufacturer
- Always use the manufacturer-approved charger for the product, and if any signs of wear and tear or damage are spotted, to buy an official replacement charger for the product from a reputable seller
- Ensure there are working smoke alarms on every floor of your home and in the room where you charge the bike/scooter.

General fire safety advice

The fire service also issue general fire safety advice, advising householders to:
- Close internal doors at night - have this as part of your bedtime routine
- Keep stairs clear and keys to external door and windows in places that are easy to access if you need to escape in an emergency
- Ensure everyone in your house knows what to do if a fire breaks out - and practise this
- Ensure smoking materials are fully out and don’t smoke when tired
- Ensure open fires are properly out before you go to bed.

Mr Smith concluded: “In the aftermath of Friday’s tragedy, I’d urge everyone to check their home for potential fire risks. There is an online tool on our website that can be used to highlight areas to think about.

” It isn’t just e-bikes and e-scooters, we have so many electrical gadgets these days that all require charging, people just need to be aware of the risks and put steps in place to ensure they are being charged safety.

The scene of the fire on Sackville Close, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
The scene of the fire on Sackville Close, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

“You can also complete the online tool for older or other vulnerable family members too who may not live with you and may have other habits or risk factors that make them vulnerable such as they smoke or have limited mobility which may prevent them from being able to escape if a fire took hold. In these cases, our specialist fire prevention officers will visit in person and carry out an assessment.”

Further home fire safety advice including electrical safety can be found on the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service website.

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