A hero builder risked his own life to rescue a pet dog and cat from the fire that destroyed part of a town’s history.
Jack Gallagher and his wife Michelle saw thick smoke coming from the roof of number 73 High Street in Stony Stratford – a centuries-old house sandwiched between two shops – just after 3pm on Sunday.
“We knew a middle-aged couple lived in the house and we were worried they were trapped in there,” said Michelle.
“We banged on the door and no-one answered. But we could hear a dog barking. Meanwhile the fire was getting worse by the second.”
Jack, who is 29, called the fire service then, using all his strength, kicked down the wooden front door of the three-storey house.
“He rushed in, searched downstairs, and managed to find the dog. It was a little dachshund and was shaking from head to foot with fright,” said Michelle.
Jack, who works as a plasterer and carpenter, also spotted a cat. So as soon as he’d handed the dachshund, called Wiggy, to his wife for safe-keeping, he ran back in to the smoke-filled property.
“He bought out the cat, which was terrified but fine. He’d also noticed a free-standing gas fire and he dragged that out too because he was worried it would cause an explosion,” said Michelle.
Minutes later the house was engulfed in flames. Despite the best efforts of firefighters, it is now reduced to rubble. The two neighbouring properties are so severely damaged by fire that the road is still cordoned off for safety reasons.
Luckily both buildings were empty because of the bank holiday. One is shared by a funeral director and Jackson Pyne lettings agents, while the other is an old-fashioned sweet shop at the start of Stony Arcade.
Fire experts and police are now investigating the cause of the blaze, which is the biggest fire to hit Stony since 1742.
Long-standing Stony resident and city Alderman Paul Bartlett said: “ So much is wrecked or damaged. It’s a tragedy for the town and we all need to rally round to help.”
He added: “Milton Keynes Council also needs to do all it can to help businesses to get back on their feet and to ensure the rebuilding of lost and damaged listed and other properties.”
Meanwhile Wiggy and his feline friend have been reunited with their shocked owners. Jack and Michelle looked after the animals until the householder’ daughter arrived to take them.
“She was very grateful, but shocked. Her parents only moved in to the property in January and now it is totally destroyed,” said Michelle.