A town’s fire station was non-operational when a fatal fire occurred just a few hundred yards away, it was revealed at an inquest.

Firefighters from Rhyl and St Asaph answered the 999 call to the flat in Tan-y-Graig, Denbigh, in August last year and the hearing in Ruthin was told of the problems facing the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service in providing emergency cover across the region at a time when there are fewer volunteers to man stations.

Janet Jones, aged 53, died in the blaze in her first-floor flat and after hearing of the problems encountered by the fire service her brother Roger Jones said he appreciated the difficulties, but added: “I don’t want something like this to happen to anybody else. The faults are there for everybody to see.”

The inquest heard how Miss Jones, a former creamery worker, had been suffering from depression and had a drink problem since 2016 when her long-term partner died.

Firefighters had twice been called to her flat after cooking materials had overheated and although she was known to the authorities to be vulnerable she refused to co-operate with attempts to offer fire prevention advice.

She suffered from respiratory problems and on the morning of August 5 she was taken by ambulance to Glan Clwyd Hospital after being taken ill in Boots the chemist, but she took a taxi home before being seen.

That afternoon neighbours heard one of her windows smashing and Miss Jones banged on one neighbour’s door before returning to her smoke-filled flat.

Her nephew and a neighbour tried to enter the flat but were driven back by the dense smoke.

Firefighters found Miss Jones in her kitchen but she was certified dead on arrival in hospital. The cause of death was given as carbon monoxide poisoning, with alcohol and sleeping tablets as contributory factors.

A post-mortem examination revealed that she had 301 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, the drink-drive limit being 80.

Fire investigation officer Geraint Hughes said the source of the fire was almost certainly a heavily overloaded electrical socket in the living-room, where a four-way adaptor had another three-way adaptor connected.

The fire service was raised by Gofal Care, the call system operated by the Clwyd Alyn Housing Association, after the flat’s automatic alarm had been triggered.

Fire Safety Officer Kevin Roberts said that when a control operator spoke to Miss Jones she said initially that she could put out the fire herself. She was advised to leave the property and a couple of minutes later she said she needed help.

Questioned about emergency fire cover in the area, Mr Roberts outlined the systems now operated by the North Wales service to cover areas where a shortage of retained firefighters made it impossible to man all stations.

“Over the past couple of years it has become more and more challenging and we have introduced new measures,” he said.

One of the problems was that payments to retained firecrews were not as attractive as they used to be, partly because of a reduction in the number of callouts he added.

He said that although there had been a slight delay in confirming Miss Jones’s address once the St Asaph crew had been alerted they reached Denbigh very quickly, with the full-time Rhyl crew arriving very soon after.

He explained that four people were needed for the Denbigh station to be operational but there were only three available that day, a fact that was known the previous day. Because of that two of the three took leave and the third one joined the St Asaph-based crew.

John Gittins, coroner for North Wales East and Central, commented: “We will never know whether it would have made any difference had the Denbigh station been operational.”

Recording a conclusion of accidental death, he said most people assumed that “a fire station is a fire station is a fire station”, providing round-the clock cover.

“The fact is that it is not what it used to be in many ways and there is no point in harking back. We live in very different times,” he said.

Thanking the fire officers for their candour in presenting the facts, he added: “We sometimes have expectations which are beyond the reality.”