A WOMAN and her 22-year-old son are homeless this week after their canal boat caught fire and sank.

The fire was close to Harepath Bridge in Horton shortly before 6pm on Tuesday.

Ann Turner had just stepped off the narrowboat Amy to take a breath of air when she noticed smoke coming from the boat.

She dived back in to rescue her two Alsatian dogs and called the fire brigade.

The boat was well alight by the time a crew from Devizes arrived. Station commander Pip Flowers was one of the first on the scene and was horrified to see oxygen and acetylene cylinders on board the boat.

He said: "Because there are often gas cylinders on these kind of boats, usually propane, we approached with care, but when we saw the oxygen and acetylene we had to draw back.

"We monitored the situation with special equipment and, once the cylinders were cool enough, we went in and extinguished the fire."

The road through Horton was closed until about 1am for the safety of fire crews.

Mrs Turner's son, Ian O'Leary, who has recently taken on ownership of the Amy from his stepfather John Turner, surveyed the sunken wreckage.

He said: "The fire brigade sank my boat. They should have been pumping it out as they were filling it up, but they didn't.

"I don't know what I'm going to do. I suppose I will end up in a bed-and-breakfast somewhere. I used to work at Bowyer's in Trowbridge but there are no jobs now."

Mr Turner said he was making contact with friends who would help him float the Amy and get her out of the canal so she could be repaired.

He said: "I don't think she is a write-off, but it will cost a lot of money to put her right.

"It is awful for Ian. This is his inheritance and it is sitting on the bottom of the canal."

Mrs Turner is understood to be staying with her sister in the Trowbridge area.

British Waterways put up signs at Harepath Bridge saying the canal was closed but boats were managing to navigate around the wreck.

The fire comes as Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service launches its Boat Safety Week.

Station manager Sarah Allen said: "This is a tragic start to Boat Safety Week.

"Even the most experienced boater should prepare for the worst.

"Luckily on this occasion the owner was able to escape and nobody was hurt. Boat owners should ensure that they have a working smoke alarm, and preferably a carbon monoxide detector as well."