Spartans stalwart reveals fire horror heartache

A DEVASTATED family has been left heartbroken after a blaze ripped through their home and destroyed all of their possessions – killing three pets and causing the roof to collapse.

Spartans have raised money to help Garry Betts after his house burned down. Picture: Toby Williams
Spartans have raised money to help Garry Betts after his house burned down. Picture: Toby Williams

More than 30 firefighters spent six hours attempting to bring the flames under control as smoke billowed from the roof of the house in Crewe Terrace, Pilton, until well into the evening on Thursday.

The fire, which is believed to have started in the kitchen, saw Garry Betts, 52, his partner, Lynne, 44, and Lynne’s 18-year-old son, Jamie – who were all out at the time – lose everything, forcing them to temporarily move to a Premier Inn on the opposite side of the city.

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But today an emotional Mr Betts praised the local community for its “amazing” response as the football team where he volunteers launched an appeal to get the trio back on their feet.

Spartans – where Mr Betts, known as Grim, has run adult disability team Spartans Connections for the past two years – have so far raised almost £3000 to help the family.

Mr Betts said he had been left “absolutely devastated” by the fire, revealing the most upsetting thing had been losing the family’s beloved dog Buster and two cats.

He said: “If Jamie had been working a late shift he would have been asleep in bed and we would have lost him. We keep thinking about things like that.

“I was training with the lads from Spartans Connections and I heard the fire engines, but I never thought it was our home.

“One of our neighbours phoned our Jamie up and said, ‘Get home, your house is on fire’, so he called me. When I first got there, there were five or six fire engines outside.

“You just think about the poor cats and dog and what they must have gone through.”

He added: “But what has been amazing is that we didn’t know half of our neighbours, but now they have all come to our aid. This T-shirt I’m 
wearing is my neighbour’s.

“I’m paralysed in my right arm and earlier when I was digging a grave for my cat, my neighbour saw me struggling with it and came to help. I would like to thank everybody that’s donated. It’s amazing, and it’s even gone beyond the Spartans now.”

Mr Betts and his family are currently assessing the damage to their house and getting their insurance claim in order, with temporary plans to secure a six-month lease on a new property.

In a moving post on the Spartans Connections FC Facebook page, he offered a “massive thank you” to the club.

He said: “You are the light at the end of a very dark tunnel we’ve just been down. Words fail me now, there aren’t any that can describe how much you all mean to us. I love you all.”

Spartans chairman Craig Graham said Mr Betts was a “critical” member of the club.

He added: “He set up the adult disability section and has been running that for two years. He is making a fantastic difference in these guys’ lives. He’s a big supporter of the club.”