UPDATE: Five dogs AND two cats die in huge house blaze - as firefighters reveal how it happened

Damge caused by huge fire at High Ashes Farm, Ashover, last night.
Damge caused by huge fire at High Ashes Farm, Ashover, last night.

Firefighters say a family are “extremely lucky” to have escaped a huge house blaze which killed five dogs and two cats - causing an inaugural community charity event to be cancelled.

Crews from Chesterfield and Matlock attended High Ashes Farm, Highashes Lane, Ashover, at about 10.17pm, along with police and ambulance services on Thursday (March 17).

The owner of the home, Philip Coates, said that three of the main rooms are completely “gutted” and the home is now unlivable.

The farm was set to host a 5km/10km Mud Run event yesterday (March 19), as part of High Ashes Rural Project, which supports people with learning disabilities.

The five dogs killed are a mix of cairn terriers and cairn doodles - which was assistance dogs used by the charity.

A fire investigation has concluded the blaze was started accidentally with the most probable cause being sparks from a fire.

“One of the guys who came to board it up said that it was one of the worst he has seen,” Mr Coates said.

“The fire burnt three of the main rooms.

“The house is not fit to live in.

“There was sentimental items in the house.”

Mr Coates returned to his home last night, while his wife Vanessa and Georgina were upstairs in the property watching television.

“I went to watch television and opened the door and it was just an inferno,” Mr Coates said.

“I rang the fire service straight away.

“There was a bit of a panic because they ran out of water and had to take some from our big pond.”

The High Ashes Rural Project helps people with learning disabilities for the “improvement of people’s health, social and wellbeing improvement.”

The Mud Run, which was set to be attended by 70 people, has now been postponed for a later date in April. Plans have been place for the event since October last year.

Money raised from the event was going to be spent on the High Ashes project.

Mr Coates says he is now planning on setting-up a fundraising drive and has urged anyone who can help to come forward.

“I am very upset, I just watch to get up and carry on with the project.

“We just want to support people.”

“I would like to say thank you to Peak Edge hotel who are accommodating us and 1st Highfield Scouts (St Andrews) who have brought us a big tent.

“Me and my family are all fine.”

Station manager, Andy Lee, said that on arrival at the property, crews were met by a “well-developed” house fire.

He said: “A family of three was extremely lucky to escape the fire despite the lack of any working smoke alarms to alert them.

“The male occupant was able to evacuate his wife and daughter who had been asleep upstairs at the time of the fire. Sadly several animals including five dogs and two cats died as a result of the fire.”

Area manager, Alex Johnson, responsible for community safety, said: “The photographs from this incident show the severity of this fire and the destruction fire can cause.

“The family involved have been extremely lucky in escaping the fire and are going to be affected by this tragedy for a long time to come.

“Not only has their home been devastated, but they have also lost several family pets.

“Whilst the building can be repaired, sadly personal effects such as photographs and keepsakes and their beloved pets, can never be replaced.”