A pet pooch sits on top of a charred cooker – after sparking a blaze which almost wrecked her owners’ house.
Spring-heeled Breesha the beagle leapt on to a cooker to get at a linen basket, but accidentally turned on the electric hob with her paw.
The heat set fire to the basket which spread, causing £5,000 of damage to the kitchen.
Gareth Smith, 54, of St Pauls Close, Farington Moss, said: “My wife received an urgent phone call to go to Sheffield where her terminally ill father had gone into a coma and wasn’t expected to survive much longer.
“She and my daughter dashed out of the house forgetting the wash basket was on top of the cooker.
“Breesha jumped up at some stage and turned on the hob.
“She has jumped up at the cooker because beagles are fairly well known for eating anything and chewing anything.
“They will chew clothing.
“She has chewed kitchen knives and disposable razors.”
The father-of-two said: “It’s damaged the kitchen units, it’s wrecked the cooker, the whole kitchen is full of black soot.
“My son was in, he was upstairs but was completely unaware of it.
“The fire had actually put itself out. The only thing we can think is the smoke or whatever has cut off the air to the fire.”
The family has had Breesha for around four years since she was a puppy and Mr Smith said they couldn’t keep her in the doghouse despite her firestarting antics.
He said: “It was quite a shock to see what she has done.
“You can’t help but love her because she’s such a beautiful dog.
“Because they do get into things, you accept that they are going to cause a bit of trouble but you never quite expect them to do something on this scale, nearly burning the house down.”
His wife Elizabeth’s father died shortly after the family were called to his bedside.
And now to add further to the family’s despair, the insurance company has rejected their claim.
Mr Smith, a professional photographer, said: “My wife was asked, at the point of taking out the policy, had we made any claims in the last three years.
“She honestly but incorrectly said no, forgetting two small claims two years and nine months previously.
“They investigated and said we accept you have not misled us intentionally.”
The company has cancelled the policy from its inception 14 month ago and will refund the payments to the Smiths.
Mr Smith said: “We have been in the house for 14 months without any insurance.
“If the fire had taken hold and we had lost the house we would have been left with a mortgage and a hole in the ground all because of a simple oversight.
“I’m just concerned there could be many other people in our position.
“This has all happened in the past two or three weeks, nothing but bad luck at the moment.”
A More Than spokesman said: “Under the terms of the More Than policy, we ask all customers if they have made any claims in the last three years.
“When the most recent claim was registered, it became apparent that three previous claims had been made, two in 2007 and one in 2009, but had not been disclosed.
“Had we been made aware of the previous claims we would not have issued a policy.
“As a result of this, we were unable to process Mr and Mrs Smith’s claim and a premium refund was made.
“We are sorry that Mr and Mrs Smith are unhappy with our decision.
“This highlights the need for all customers to disclose all previous claims and answer all questions as fully as possible when taking out an insurance policy.”
An identical incident in Blackburn in August caused a major fire at a house when the occupiers were out.
A Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “It does happen and it’s worth bearing in mind.
“Keep (pets) out of the kitchen or anywhere that they can inadvertently switch things on, heaters that sort of thing.”