A councillor has spoken of the heartbreaking moment he desperately tried to save a homeless woman who died in a fire at a public toilet block in Ayrshire.

Jim Montgomerie had befriended the woman, bringing her food and drink and offering to help find her a place to stay, in the days and weeks leading up to the fatal blaze in Saltcoats.

And in a horrible twist of fate, Jim – a Labour councillor in the town – was first on the scene after spotting smoke coming from the building in Melbourne Road on the morning of Monday, November 15.

He tried in vain to force his way in as mercy crews raced to help. But despite the best efforts of all involved, the woman could not be saved.

Jim toldAyrshire Live:"I had been down the shore for my usual morning coffee and was driving away when I saw the building clearly on fire.

"I tried to get in but it was impossible. There was smoke everywhere. It was seeping through the concrete walls. It was like something out a horror film.

The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now.

Get all the local news in your area – plus features, football news and the latest on the coronavirus crisis – at your fingertips 24/7.

The free download features the latest breaking news and exclusive stories while you can customise your page with the sections that matter to you.

Saltcoats councillor reveals desperate bid to save homeless woman killed in toilet block blaze

The Ayrshire Live app is available to download now on iOS and Android.

"I can't find the words to really describe how tragic this all is. Only the day before I had taken her a wee sandwich and a hot drink."

Jim revealed how he first came into contact with the woman a couple of weeks ago after receiving a phone call about someone sleeping rough down the shore.

"I met her, had a wee chat and contacted the council to see what we could do for her," he said.

"The council offered her temporary accommodation but the woman declined any help.

"I do food bank deliveries for the IMC Project in Saltcoats so I'd take her down the odd sandwich and a cup of tea or coffee.

"I never even got to know her name or could tell you what age she was because she was so well wrapped up, right up to her eyes.

"It's just so overwhelmingly sad to think what's happened. That's someone's daughter or mum at the end of the day.

"It's a tragedy that's been felt by the whole community."

Last week, North Ayrshire Council confirmed it had offered the woman temporary accommodation and access to services.

Police are not treating the woman's death as suspicious and a report has been sent to the procurator fiscal.

Don't miss the latest Ayrshire headlines –sign up to our free daily newsletter here