CHRISTMAS is in jeopardy for a Swindon family on its knees as, after watching their home go up in smoke five weeks ago, their beloved cat of 10 years has now disappeared.

There has been no luck for Cheryl Ford, 37, and her family since their three-storey council house in Montrose Close, Moredon, was scorched by a house fire on October 16.

While Swindon Borough Council repairs the property, Cheryl, partner Iain Selwood, 35, and his children, Matthew, 13, and Chloe, nine, have been put in emergency accommodation.

Their cats though - all 13 of them - have been temporarily rehomed and Ben, Cheryl’s treasured feline of 10 years standing, has gone missing, to further deepen the heartbreak of an already desperate situation.

“It’s been awful. We have been in two-bedroom emergency accommodation, with two kids sharing a bedroom, who don’t get on all of the time,” said Cheryl, who works for Royal Mail.

“And of course we weren’t allowed to take the cats in there with us.”

The local authority hopes to have the family back in their home in the next fortnight, but any delays between now and then could derail that estimate and put Father Christmas on hold for 2015.

“I really hope so (the council’s estimate is right), because otherwise we are not having a Christmas. There is no room in this flat for Christmas trees or a dining table,” she said.

“We really want to be back home for Christmas.”

It was 6.40am when Cheryl and Iain were woken up in their second floor bedroom by the blaring fire alarms of their home.

They first woke up Chloe, sleeping in an adjacent room on the same floor, before descending to the first floor to get Matthew out.

As he opened his bedroom however, it immediately became clear where the source of the fire was, as thick black smoke swarmed into the corridor from his room.

An electrical fire had started in the corner of his room, but the heavy-duty fire doors throughout the property confined the damage to his room.

“There was a massive cloud of smoke. He was really lucky to get out alive. If the alarms hadn’t gone off, he definitely would have died,” said Cheryl.

“It was absolutely gutted, Matthew’s bedroom. Heavy-duty fire doors kept it contained, but he lost absolutely everything.

“He was just stood outside in the street in his pants. Luckily our neighbours took him in and gave him some clothes.”

The exact cause of the electrical spark is still to be determined, but the family continues to count the loss to Matthew and his sister Chloe, whose plastic dolls were welded to the floor by the heat.

As three fire engines, three police cars and an ambulance managed the scene, Cheryl and Ian tried to come to terms with the devastation as dawn broke over Swindon.

“We just went on auto-pilot when it was all happening. Once we got outside I just burst into tears. Seeing all that smoke and fire coming out of your house was awful,” said Cheryl.

“The kids don’t seem too affected by it. We can’t begin to work out what we went through.

“All of our neighbours came out and they were wonderful. I can’t thank them enough for bringing the kids and getting us drinks.”

Ben went missing in the Bourne Road area of Moredon on Sunday, November 1. If you have any information on his whereabouts, call Cheryl on 07850 252557.