Roy Betts, 73, and his German wife Gerda lost their bungalow after they accidently set their Christmas tree alight with a candle.
Six fire engines tackled the blaze, which happened after 1pm on Sunday (December 25) in Durrington Hill, Worthing.
The pair had lived in the bungalow for 35 years.
The couple’s neighbour, Carly Kennard, 18, a referencing administrator apprentice called the fire service after seeing black smoke come into her house.
She said: “It was completely alight by the time we all noticed at home. I walked outside to have a cigarette and black smoke came swooshing into my house, so my dad jumped over the fence as he thought the couple were in there.
“When he came out Roy was trying to run back into the house, but my dad held him back.
“Their house was their pride and joy, and was all they worked on.”
The couple were treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns in Worthing Hospital following the blaze which had ‘catastrophic consequences’, according to Adrian Murphy, area commander from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.
He added: “The couple were demonstrating traditional candles to their grandchildren when their tree set alight.
“The fire resulted in the total loss of the bungalow – if you catch a Christmas tree on fire, they are spectacular and turn into a huge ball of fire.
“It would have involved the whole room very quickly. Fortunately, the victim was the house and no one was fatally hurt.”
The area commander said the pair had been demonstrating a ‘traditional German Christmas’, however Mr Betts has denied this and said the couple instead ‘had a candle near the tree and had tried to prepare for any possibility of a fire by standing nearby with a handheld spray bottle full of water’.
He also said they do not have any grandchildren and there were no children in the house.
The couple are reported to be staying with friends in Goring.
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