A RECLUSIVE pensioner's fierce independence led to her death in a blaze at her semi-derelict farmhouse.
Lucy Walker, 85, lived in the lounge in front of an open fire at her home in Dean Road, Upperthong, despite Kirklees Council providing her with a static caravan outside.
An inquest in Huddersfield heard that her home had been condemned as unsafe to live in, but she refused to move out and into the relative comfort of the caravan - even though she had had two hip replacements and an operation on a knee.
Instead she remained in the cluttered room and her highly dangerous attempt to light a fire two days after Christmas last year ended in tragedy.
She had got into the habit of dipping firewood into a can containing a mixture of diesel and petrol and then using them to get the open fire going.
But on December 27 last year she was struggling to light the fire and brought the can containing the highly- flammable fuel inside.
Vapours spread out from the can and when they were sparked by the fire, the entire lounge, cluttered with papers and plastic bags containing clothes, was engulfed in flames.
Mrs Walker died very quickly from smoke inhalation as she sat on her bed in the room. Her body was badly burned.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service fire investigation expert Brian Keating said: "It all happened so fast, she did not have time to move and her body was found in a sitting position on the bed.
"She would have lost consciousness very rapidly. The fire would have flashed across so fast."
He said Mrs Walker had placed the can of fuel between her bed and the kitchen doorway so as soon as the vapours ignited her escape route would have been immediately cut off.
Mrs Walker - whose husband, Tommy, died in the early 1980s - was a hoarder who never threw things away and all the clutter had caught fire which fed the flames even more.
The fire was so intense two men who tried to get into the farmhouse through both the back and front doors were beaten back by the intense heat and smoke.
Mrs Walker still had a small herd of cattle, but she was helped with them by Meltham man Geoffrey Smith, who called at the farm twice a day to help.
When he arrived on the morning of December 27 last year Mrs Walker was on her hands and knees trying to light the fire.
Mr Smith told the inquest: "I said to her: `Come out of the way and I'll do it' but she said: `It's all right, I've all day to do it.'
"That was the last time I saw her."
He left the house at 10.30am and the fire was discovered by a neighbour an hour later.
Assistant deputy coroner Paul Marks recorded a verdict of accidental death.
Mrs Walker was well-known in Upperthong and many people likened her to famous Dales recluse Hannah Hauxwell.
Earlier in her life Mrs Walker worked at Charlesworth's Stationers in Holmfirth, and also ran a milk round.