The 91-year-old man who died in a house fire outside Belfast had tried to flee but was overcome by fumes.
Firefighters rescued Samuel Carson from the overnight blaze in his Hillsborough Road home in Carryduff but efforts to revive him failed and he was declared dead at the scene.
It is understood that the fire that killed the pensioner had spread across the rear of two other properties before reaching his bungalow.
Yesterday Pastor Gordon Walker from Carryduff Baptist Church told of his congregation’s “shock and sadness”.
“He was a life-long member of the church and was totally devoted to Christ and the service of what we were doing here. He was a great family man and raised his children among the church who helped look after him.”
Pastor Walker said he had declined offers to move in with his family members, “preferring to stay on in his family home”.
He added: “He had been in very good health until the last year or so when he was admitted to hospital.
“I have been told that was the first time he was in hospital since he was a child. He was a very generous man in terms of gifts and the very land the present church is built on was land that belonged to him.”
Pastor Walker said Mr Carson had three children, “around 16 grandchildren and many more great grandchildren”.
“His latest great grandchild was born a couple of weeks ago and he managed to see her before the fire,” he said.
Pastor Walker added that he had been speaking to Mr Carson’s sister yesterday, who said “isn’t it better that he is in Heaven rather than in hospital?”
He added: “For all Mr Carson’s working life he had delivered meal for Irwin’s and would have travelled all over Northern Ireland.
“He knew everywhere and there wasn’t a wee village or area that he didn’t know. He would have been well-known by the farming community.
“He was also a great repository of local knowledge and had lived in the same house with his late wife for 70 years.
“He would reflect his faith in Christ in his generosity and during a recent time in hospital he got chatting with one of the nurses who was about to get married and he gave her a wedding present. When she came back from honeymoon she visited him, and he had a lot of visitors of that nature which he loved.”
The blaze was reported to the fire and rescue service just before 1am and it took personnel around four hours to fully extinguish it. Seven appliances, a command support unit and around 40 firefighters were involved in the operation. NIFRS Group Commander Kevin O’Neill said the fire started in a garage at the back of a semi-detached house in nearby Thorndale Park. “It seems that he (Mr Carson) had made an attempt to escape but had become overcome by smoke and collapsed.”
Mr O’Neill said this was the first time he had encountered a fatal oil tank fire.
“There have been quite a number of oil tank fires similar to this over the last five to 10 years but this is the first time it has had such tragic consequences,” he said.
“We believe it to be accidental and have no reason to think it is otherwise, but at the moment we are just not at liberty to confirm what the actual cause was.”
He said the operation to deal with the blaze was complex.
“Really what we were dealing with were separate scenes - we were dealing with a garage fire, we were dealing with a running liquid fire and we were dealing with a house fire.
“The crews worked extraordinarily well to deal with it as quickly as we did but everyone is going away deflated by the fact we weren’t able to save him.”