Pensioner Jim Cavanagh was blissfully unaware that a fire was tearing through the roof of his house in Tin Pit, Marlborough, until a passer-by knocked on his door and alerted him.

Fire crews from Marlborough, Devizes, Swindon and Calne battled the blaze, which began just before 4pm on Tuesday.

Mr Cavanagh, 72, who lives with his 42-year-old son Paul, was in his kitchen ironing when the fire started but got out unharmed.

He said: “A lady was walking by and noticed the smoke so knocked on my door.

“I was quite surprised. I got out and rang the fire service immediately.

“After that there wasn’t much I could do because the fire was beginning to get a hold of the house but I was home alone at the time so there was no need to go back in to get anyone.”

He praised the emergency services. “The fire service was very good and acted very quickly,” he said.

“There was a lot of heat coming from the house and the fire had spread quite a lot by the time they arrived but they dealt with it very well.

“A lot of people have been asking me if I’m okay and offering help and saying they’re sorry about what has happened so that has been nice.”

The extent of the damage has meant that Mr Cavanagh and his son have had to move out of their home and may not be able to return for six months.

One of the bedrooms in the house has been destroyed by the fire and there is smoke and heat damage to the other two.

There is also water damage to some of the rooms downstairs caused by a burst pipe.

Marlborough, Ramsbury and Royal Wootton Bassett station manager Paul Jarmey said: “The first pump in attendance was met with a well developed roof fire.

“The fire was rapidly bought under control due to the weight of response from the fire service and our initial actions meant a significant proportion of the property was saved.”

Next door neighbour Jeremy Barker said: “I saw smoke coming over from next door and then Jim came over and said that his house was on fire. He was remarkably together about the whole thing.

“It was quite surprising because you don’t expect the house next door to be on fire but Jim was calm, cool and collected.“ The cause of the fire is being investigated.