David Calver was out doing deliveries for work in the record-breaking heat when his wife, Trudie, called.
She told him to rush back home and get their cats out the house. He tried, but was stopped from getting near.
“I just had to stand in the field gateway and look down the field where our house was totally ablaze. Flames shooting through the roof,” the 67-year-old from Norfolk tells The Independent.
The fire began in a field near to Mr Calver’s house during extreme heat across the UK, which saw temperatures of 40C for the first time in history and fuelled dozens of serious blazes.
The wind then changed and blew flames towards homes. Mr Calver says his and his neighbour’s houses were “totally destroyed”.
He says: “You come into the world with nothing, you go out with nothing, but you do not expect halfway through your life to suddenly find you’ve got nothing again.”
Norfolk’s fire service was just one of a number to declare a major incident on Tuesday as fires erupted on the day the UK recorded 40C heat for the first time in history. So did Suffolk, Hertfordshire, Leicestershire and London.
Firefighters have called Tuesday’s blazes a “wake-up call” on the climate crisis as hundreds broke out.
Houses burned across the country in the extreme heat, including in Wennington in the capital - where residents described scenes as being like the Blitz - and Kent.
Over in the village of Ashmanhaugh in north Norfolk, Mr Calver was not able to grab the cats as his house stood ablaze. One, Treasure, was later found in the scorched garden and is ill, while the other is still missing.
Almost all of the couple’s possessions went up in flames in the fire. They managed to salvage his parent’s painting - strangely almost “untouched”on the wall - as well as a couple of family photos.
”That’s all that we’ve got out. Everything else was totally destroyed. We had the clothes we stood up in and nothing else,” the 67-year-old garden centre worker says.
Also gone is a sentimental ruby ring that belonged to Trudi’s mother.
The couple are now faced with having to replace everything. He says they thought their contents insurance was rolling over, but have now found out it expired.
They do not really have enough savings to fall back on either, he says, which is why a friend has set up a fundraising page to help them, as well as their neighbour.
When asked where the couple were living now, Mr Calver says: “We're not living basically, we're sofa surfing.”
He adds, chuckling: “Whoever thought I'd be sofa surfing at 67?”
He had never expected something like this to happen in his small Norfolk village, which has a population of around 200. Seven fire engines and three police cars turned up when the houses went up in flames.
“It’s come as a complete shock,” says Mr Calver. “I said to people this must be the most excitement Ashmanhaugh has had since the war.”