A dairy farmer praised firefighters whose actions saved his livelihood from going up in smoke.

David Gawthorp, of Chellow Heights farm, Heaton, could have lost his entire dairy stock, valued at tens of thousands of pounds, from smoke inhalation after a calf knocked a propane gas cylinder off a shelf in the barn, sparking a fireball.

Mr Gawthorp, 46, and his younger brother Richard, 44, had to run for cover as the cylinder exploded, igniting the hayloft above them.

The pair rang 999 then returned to the barn with buckets from a water bath in the yard to try to dowse the flames until the gas ran out, during the drama on Friday.

“We thought the whole lot was going to go up so we just ran for it but then went back in with buckets to try and put it out,” said Mr Gawthorp, who is the fourth generation of his family to run the farm over the past century.

“We had 18 cattle in the barn and another 100 in a building adjoining it.”

Fire crews from Fairweather Green, Bradford, Idle and Shipley and a special appliance ladder from Leeds tackled the blaze and smoke for more than five hours after the alarm was raised at about 3pm. At the peak of the blaze about 25 firefighters were involved.

The brothers managed to move the cattle out into a nearby field after thick, choking smoke filled the barn and cowshed. Smoke also crept into the newly-refurbished farmhouse.

Fairweather Green watch commander Mark Hemingway said: “It was a massive team effort.

“We managed to save the buildings, get the slates off the barn roof to dampen the timbers and stop the fire getting elsewhere.

“All the buildings were joined on so it could’ve spread easily if we hadn’t got there so quick and pulled together.

“The farm was pleased with the job we did – and we got job satisfaction.

“The whole of his livelihood could’ve gone up in smoke.”

Mr Gawthorp praised firefighters.

“They did a great job. We could’ve lost a living but thanks to them damage was limited, the cattle are all fine.”

e-mail: kathie.griffiths@telegraphandargus.co.uk