A DOG-LOVING couple have praised hero firefighters who risked their lives to rescue a pet pooch from a blazing house.

Tony and Tina Walther returned home to find the kitchen of their grade two listed house in Colchester Road, White Colne, engulfed in fire and smoke.

Their cocker spaniel Tilly was trapped inside the kitchen.

Luckily, two binmen had spotted the fire and raised the alarm.

Mr Walther, 73, said: “The two guys who come to clear up the dustbins had turned up just after we left.

“The dustmen, God bless them, spotted the flames and ran next door and told my sister who then phoned the fire brigade.

“They tried to get in because they knew we had a dog in here.

“The dustmen could hear Tilly scratching – that’s why they kicked the door in because they could hear something.

“Bless their hearts, they kicked this door in but because it was so full of black smoke they couldn’t see anything in there.”

Firefighters soon arrived at the scene and started tackling the blaze, but there was no sign of Tilly.

Mr Walther said: “The firemen said the dog’s not in here, but Tina looked through the window and luckily she could just spot a little patch of the dog’s back.

“They got her out which was a miracle really because the heat in here must have been immense.”

The soaring temperature in the kitchen was hot enough to crack the windows and even melt an alarm hanging on the other side of a heavy wooden door.

The dog was given oxygen therapy by her rescuers.

Mrs Walther, 60, said she was extremely grateful to the fire brigade.

“They were absolutely fantastic,” she said.

“If they hadn’t acted so quickly then we simply wouldn’t have a house.

“I can’t thank them or sing their praises enough.

“They are wonderful guys and you just don’t realise that they actually risk their own lives.”

Mr Walther said: “We owe them a debt of gratitude.

“We could have lost a hell of a lot more if it hadn’t of been for them.

“It was just by sheer luck the fire didn’t go through to the next part of the house.”

The fire brigade said Tilly was extremely lucky to survive.

Halstead fire station watch manager Steve Byrne said: “Despite the heavy smoke, our firefighters were able to locate the dog, a cocker spaniel called Tilly, which was hiding next to the fridge.

“We brought Tilly outside to safety and gave her oxygen therapy. Ultimately our job is to save lives and protect our public, so to be able to save this family’s pet was the happy ending we always want to see.”

Mr Walther added: “The puppy is undergoing treatment because of the smoke.

“She’s been pretty sick today and she’s back at the vets again tomorrow.

“I think because she’s quite small it gave her a sporting chance, being flat on the ground, under the smoke.”

The blaze started in a dishwasher. The kitchen was completely destroyed by the fire, which broke out just before 8.30am last Thursday.