AN AMOROUS tortoise wanting to mate with his partner after emerging from hibernation managed to burn down the conservatory they lived in – killing them both.
Frisky Henry the tortoise is believed to have knocked over his own heating lamp in his excitement, which in turn set fire to wood chippings and caused the blaze at Richardson Road, Thornaby, Teesside.
Henry’s owner Alf Clayton said he believed Henry woke from hibernation and began chasing his partner Alice around.
“He always was a bit of a one and had chased her around and must have knocked the heater over.”
The heater set fire to wood shavings, destroying the conservatory and damaging the garage. Both Henry and Alice were killed in the fire.
Mr Clayton, a retired council worker and grandfather-of-15, said the tortoises were his wife Gayner’s pride and joy.
He said: "She’s devastated.
"Firefighters who attended said they would have perished from smoke inhalation and wouldn’t have suffered.”
He praised a neighbour who alerted the couple to the blaze before 8pm on Saturday night (March 2) Mr Clayton said: “They spotted smoke coming out of our garage next to our home.
“My wife and I ran out. We managed to get the car out of the garage and then the conservatory, where the tortoises were, burst into flames.
“There was no way we could get them out - it was too intense. We tried.”
Fire crews from Thornaby attended the home to put the blaze out.
A Cleveland Fire Brigade spokesman said the cause was accidental - an incubator lamp appeared to have set material alight.