THE raging fire that killed a much-loved allotment holder was sparked as a result of a tragic accident.
An investigation was launched after a pensioner lost his life in a blaze at Rossmere Allotments, in Hartlepool.
The victim of the fire was named locally as Ron White, who is believed to be in his late 70s and had been working the Brierton Lane plot for decades after leaving the Royal Navy.
Police and fire officers probed the embers of a cabin that was destroyed in the inferno and have now confirmed that the blaze was started by accident.
They have not revealed the specific cause of the fire, but it is thought Mr White had a wood-burning stove in his wooden hut.
A post-mortem examination has been carried out and officers are awaiting its results to pinpoint the cause of Mr White’s death.
A joint statement by Cleveland Police and Cleveland Fire Brigade said: “Police and the fire brigade were called to a fire in a shed at Rossmere Allotments at 11.50am on March 14.
“A man, believed to be in his 70’s, died at the scene. A post-mortem examination was conducted to ascertain the cause of death and we are awaiting the conclusion of this.
“The cause of the fire is accidental and it is believed that there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding the incident.”
The cabin was burned to the ground in just 20 minutes with 15ft-high flames seen coming from his plot.
Mr White was found to be dead when firefighters arrived just four minutes after getting the call.
Mr White is said to have served in the Royal Navy during his national service and was on board a mine layer called Apollo in European waters.
He was a life member and vice-president of the Royal Naval Association, as well as being an honorary member of the Durham Light Infantry and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
People in Armadale Grove, where Mr White lived, and his friends on the allotment have spoken of their disbelief at losing such a popular figure.
Neighbour Linda Sharp paid tribute to Mr White saying: “He was lovely. I just feel shock. I can’t believe it.”
Her husband John Sharp added: “We have lived here five years and got on with him straight away.
“He used to go to the Navy Club then started to go to the Globe, on the Headland, for a chat more than anything else.
“He would get on with anyone and talk to anyone. He was a lovely, sociable fella.
“He loved his gardening. He would be up at seven in the morning, winter and summer, and go up to his allotment.”