A tearful widower has told how he fled a blaze which claimed the life of his beloved pet cat.
Stroke survivor Michael Langstreth, 60, of Wellhouse Close, Mirfield, was watching TV with cat Meg on his lap when his tumble dryer burst into flames.
Michael tried to tackle the fire in his kitchen but was forced to flee the house.
Meg bolted upstairs and died from the effects of smoke. Firefighters rescued her and attempted resuscitation but it was too late.
Surrounded by the wreckage of his home, retired sewage worker Michael said: “I’m just devastated.”
Michael’s wife Gillian Wood, well-known local chiropodist, died last November after a short illness and Michael’s world fell apart.
Unable to make ends meet he was forced to sell the couple’s semi-detached home and was just a month away from completion.
After the tragedy of losing his wife, who was just 58, Michael struggled to cope and forgot to renew his home insurance.
Watch Michael describe what happpened - story continues below
He is now relying on the help and goodwill of neighbours to help him rebuild his life.
Michael said: “I went to pieces after Gillian died. She was my world and I couldn’t get over it.
“Gillian gave Meg to me when I had to take early retirement and she was always my cat. Gillian used to joke that Meg would sit on my knee but would never sit with her. I can’t believe what’s happened.”
Michael was watching TV just after 2pm on Tuesday when he heard a banging noise from the kitchen.
He went to investigate and found smoke coming from the dryer. Smoke detectors went off and Meg bolted.
“I should have gone upstairs after her,” said Michael. “But I didn’t.”
Michael attempted to tackle the fire but decided to get out and call the fire brigade. He dialled 999 from the driveway and fire crews from Mirfield and Dewsbury attended.
Firefighters in breathing apparatus doused the fire but the kitchen was gutted and there was severe smoke damage to the rest of the house.
Michael, who is an insulin diabetic and takes regular medication, said he didn’t know what to do next.
“When Gillian died her wage stopped and I couldn’t pay the mortgage on just my pension,” he said.
“I planned to sell up and me and Meg would move to an apartment. That won’t happen now. We were just three or four weeks from completion. I don’t know what will happen now.”
Michael’s 84-year-old dad Eric has come to join the clean-up and neighbours have rallied to help.
Lynne Gilbert and Jayne Walker are organising tradesmen to help repair Michael’s home and offers of help are already coming in.
Lynne’s daughter Sarah Woods has set up a JustGiving page to raise £1,000.
A skip has been given free and Jayne’s husband Gary, a joiner and builder, has offered his labour for free. Another tradesman has offered to re-wire the house for no cost.
The neighbours turned to Facebook group Mirfield Matters to spread the word and Lynne said: “The first thing is to clear out the house and for that we need manpower.”
Volunteers are invited to turn up at Michael’s at 9am on Saturday.
Fire investigation officer Jamie Lister said: “Our general advice is always to keep tumble dryers free from a build-up of fluff which can spark a fire and to ensure they are maintained in good working order.”
To donate go to https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/sarah-woods-1