A potentially life-threatening blaze was started in a locked Birmingham home where three children had been left alone by their parents, a court has been told.
Fire officers had to put on breathing apparatus to enter the property, which was filled with toxic fumes.
The children were taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation but fortunately did not suffer any long-term damage, said Samantha Forsythe, prosecuting, at the city’s crown court.
The parents of the children, the father, aged 37, and mother, 23, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have pleaded not guilty to three charges of child cruelty.
Miss Forsythe said the fire services had been called to the family home in Tyseley at around 9am on February 25 last year following a 999 call.
She said when they arrived officers found three children outside the property with their mother.
“These three children that were outside had been left inside the house, alone, when both parents went out in the morning,” said Miss Forsythe.
She said it was discovered the fire had started as a result of a towel being left on a fireguard in front of a lit gas fire in the living room.
Although it was a relatively minor blaze, she said, it had produced quite a substantial amount of toxic smoke at a time when the three children had been upstairs in the two-bedroom semi-detached property.
She said that the children’s father had initially gone out in the morning to Tesco, came back, but then left again to go to work while the mother had taken a fourth child to school.
“To leave three small children, one of whom was a very young baby, alone in that house, when there was a towel placed close to a direct source of heat, was to expose these children to obvious risk,” said Miss Forsythe.