A rescue operation is in full swing to find as many as 19 cats that have escaped from a burning building.
Les Miller was rescued from his home on Harbour View in East Sleekburn earlier today (Friday), but now the community has come together to find and rescue his cats – believed to be as many as 19 – who escaped from the property when the fire broke out.
Mr Miller was taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.
One neighbour said: “When my alarm went off this morning I saw blue lights flashing, I looked out the window and could see the flames coming out of Les’ window.
“The police took Les in the car and another neighbour got him a blanket.
“We went to see him in hospital and he is just so worried about his cats and his medals from when he was in the Royal Air Force.
“The only things he has after his wife passed away are in that house, and now it’s all ruined, it’s very sad.”
It is thought the fire was started by an electrical fire.
A police spokesman confirmed one cat from the property had been taken to a nearby vets and arrangements are being made for it to be housed until the occupant is released from hospital.
A spokesman for Northumberland County Council said: “Two appliances attended from West Hartford, where the first floor was well alight.”
Local charity Helping Pets is working to catch the cats and have already rescued a further seven.
A spokesman for Helping Pets said: “Today we are taking in up to 20 cats, these cats are distressed and in need of vetinary care. Their owner is an elderly gentleman who has just lost his home in a house fire and all the cats are to be rehomed.
“None of them are neutured and at least one is heavily pregnant. They will all have suffered from smoke inhalation and some will have additional health problems.
“We are in the process of catching and collecting them now.
“They are undernourished and urgently need our help.
“We are now urgently appealing for help to pay for their vetinary care, neutering, microchips, flea and worm treatment, and we need to raise £1,500 - £2,000 to cover these costs.”
Anyone who would like to help can call the charity on (0191) 263 3621.