How a Doncaster fire tragedy led to a change in the law

Libby-Jayne Hornsby.
Libby-Jayne Hornsby.

Two years ago, a little girl from a Doncaster village died when a horrific blaze ripped through her family home.

The whole community was shocked after the death of Libby-Jayne Hornsby.

Catherine Siddons of Denaby with 18 month old granddaughter Susie Taylor.

Catherine Siddons of Denaby with 18 month old granddaughter Susie Taylor.

Hundreds turned out for her funeral as the community came to terms with the tragedy.

In the aftermath of the incident which shocked residents, it emerged that there had been no smoke alarm fitted in the house Don Street where Libby had lived.

It sparked calls for a change to the law, so that all landlords had to fit alarms.

But now, there are concerns that some homes may still be without the potentially life saving alarms.

Mark Hughes of Doncaster Road in Denaby.

Mark Hughes of Doncaster Road in Denaby.

It has prompted South Yorkshire Fire Service officers to urge property owners to comply with new fire safety laws.

The Government is acting on legislation brought into force in October to avoid another such tragedy happening.

South Yorkshire landlords are being urged to comply with this new law which requires all privately rented homes to be fitted with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Private landlords are now required to fit smoke alarms on each floor of their rental properties and install carbon monoxide alarms in rooms containing solid fuel burners such as cookers and heaters – or face a £5,000 fine.

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South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Area Manager, Steve Helps, said some landlords may not yet have complied with the new law.

“The private rented sector provides homes for some of the county’s most vulnerable groups and there is no doubt that these regulations will make privately rented accommodation safer and save live,” he added.

“We want to help private landlords meet their fire safety responsibilities and would urge them to take the time to understand the legislation and fit detectors.

“Tenants can also play a part in taking responsibility for their own safety by reminding their landlords about the new legislation if there are no smoke or carbon monoxide alarms in their home.”

In the last 10 years, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue officers have visited more than 250,000 homes across South Yorkshire and fitted an estimated 500,000 smoke alarms.

For those who knew little Libby, action to bring in smoke alarms cannot come quickly enough. Those who live in and around Don Street still have strong memories of what happened in 2013.

Gary Keeling still lives next door to the house where the fatal fire took place. He attempted to save Libby-Jayne that night.

He said of the new legislation: “It’s obviously necessary to have that sort of thing, it might have saved the little girl’s life if an alarm had been put up before, it’s a bit stable door after the horse has bolted. An officer from the fire service came round and put smoke alarms in every house down here afterwards.

“I went in when the fire started but couldn’t get to the top of the stairs because of the flames. It destroyed our attic, we were very lucky.”

Catherine Siddons of Denaby said: “Landlords get enough rent out of people, they should make sure stuff is put in place so people are safe in the homes that they own.

“I also think that if things do happen they should be held fully responsible for their actions.”

Alison Thomas of Mexborough said: “Landlords should have smoke alarms in their properties anyway, that little girl would have still been here. You just think of your own kids when something like that happens.”

Mark Hughes of Doncaster Road, Denaby said: “I think the new law is good, it’s absolutely a good thing, smoke alarms are cheap enough.

“I do remember that toddler and that incident. These incidents need to be stopped if it’s just for the sake of a few quid.”

Laura Clixby of Denaby said of Libby-Jayne: “She was really cute, I used to pass her on the way to school, I couldn’t believe it when I found out she had died.”