By the time firefighters reached the pet-boarding facility, it was in flames. They heard no barks or yelps.
“They were confronted with a scenario that is absolutely worst case,” Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan said at a Sunday press conference.
Ponderosa Pet Resort housed about 75 dogs around 30 miles north of Austin. All of them perished in the fire.
Workers found their bodies throughout the facility, some of them locked inside cages. Many others were near the front door and hadn’t even made it out of their carriers, Sullivan said.
“I’ve been doing this for 29 years, and I’ve never had an incident like this where we’ve lost so many pets,” he added.
The fire department said the dogs probably succumbed to smoke inhalation as a result of the fire.
While the investigation into the blaze’s cause is ongoing, Sullivan said that it has sparked a criminal probe.
The major fire in Georgetown, South Carolina, which has a population of about 80,000 people, is the most recent fire this year that has killed hundreds of animals.
In April, 54 dogs perished in a kennel fire in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Fire officials said it was an accident. In May 2018, a housefire in Sparta, North Carolina, killed 42 dogs.
And in August, a fire ripped through the Humane Society of Southeast Texas and killed 34 cats and nearly two-dozen other small animals.
Since 2007, more than 1,000 dogs have died in fires across the United States alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts about 125 human fatalities from house fires during the same time period.
Just before 11 p.m., the Georgetown Fire Department began receiving numerous 911 calls, according to Mayor Sullivan.
First responders arrived at Ponderosa Pet Resort in five minutes. The fire was put out by 25 firefighters using various methods.
They gained access to the building and opened doors and windows for ventilation after consulting with the owner.
The department learned that 75 dogs were kept at the facility after consulting with the owner.
When the structure went up in flames, no people were inside. Last weekend, Don and Pam Richard brought their two pups, Bunny and Clyde, home from boarding to prepare for their wedding on Friday. They had planned to retrieve the pets on Sunday. “
Ponderosa Pet Resort did not have any employees working overnight, as stated on its website.
It’s unclear whether there was a sprinkler system in place, which is not required by local fire codes. The city of Wichita follows state and federal laws, which are “self-evidently silent when it relates to animal occupancies,”.
The International Code Council, which writes fire code standards every three years, is currently meeting to vote on the 2024 edition.
He’ll be there to advocate for updating the regulations concerning pets.
“Historically, the codes didn’t often deal with animals other than a business or agricultural occupants,” Wren said in the fire department’s video statement.
“This is something that I believe is long overdue. We want answers now and we need answers immediately, but we must go through a process of determining exactly what caused the fire.”
The Georgetown Fire Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post on Sunday evening.
But in a video statement, the department’s public information officer said that because of “the magnitude at this business, a criminal investigation has been requested and accepted.”
“I’m very disturbed by it,” said the fire chief, who has been greatly impacted by the incident. “All I wish is that I could go back in time and improve it,” Sullivan added.