Coroner warns of cooking oil, heaters after deadly shed fire in Swansea

A man died in a fire after leaving towels on a heater and hot oil unattended on a stove.

A man died in a fire after leaving towels on a heater and hot oil unattended on a stove. Photo: AAP

The death of a 61-year-old man in a granny flat fire is a “solemn reminder” of the dangers of drying towels on heaters and leaving hot cooking oil unattended.

Father of three Gary John Laing’s body was found in the converted shed in the coastal Tasmanian town of Swansea on May 24, 2019.

The son of a woman living in a house on the property was the first to notice flames coming from the door and window of the accommodation where Mr Laing had lived for several years.

Neighbours used hoses to try to put out the blaze before emergency services arrived.

In findings published on Wednesday, coroner Robert Webster said the fire started when Mr Laing was outside the granny flat sitting in a chair listening to music.

Mr Laing went inside to remove a wok that was alight. He was overcome by heat and smoke when he entered a second time to either put out the fire or retrieve belongings.

Mr Webster said although the shed was not meant to be used as a dwelling it otherwise complied with the national building code and he was satisfied a smoke alarm had been installed.

He said the absence of an occupancy permit, or whether or not there was actually a smoke alarm, were not factors in Mr Laing’s death.

Investigators said the fire was sparked by either towels covering the ventilation openings of a heater or the unattended wok which contained a considerable amount of oil.

“The circumstances of this case serve as a solemn reminder that people should not dry towels by laying them over heaters which are operating,” Mr Webster said.

“Neither should they leave hot oil unattended on a stove or other heat source.”

Mr Laing, who suffered from health issues including diabetes, was described as a quiet man who kept to himself.

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