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Volunteers help sort puppies following their rescue from a fire at Wet Pets pet store in Dothan on Monday. Five ferrets, two chinchillas, one snake, one hamster and a finch were killed in the blaze.
AP photo by Jay Hare
Volunteers help sort puppies following their rescue from a fire at Wet Pets pet store in Dothan on Monday. Five ferrets, two chinchillas, one snake, one hamster and a finch were killed in the blaze.

Pet store catches fire; 9 animals die

DOTHAN (AP) — A Monday morning fire forced the evacuation of a Dothan pet store and the death of nine animals, but just a few hours later the store was open again for business.

The whole shopping center at the corner of Montgomery Highway and Denton Road was evacuated while firefighters extinguished the fire, which started in a snake cage in the back of the Wet Pets store and was put out quickly, The Dothan Eagle reported.

"Thank God for the fire department," store owner Ronnie Barbaree told the paper. "But it could have been much worse."

As it was, five ferrets, two chinchillas, one snake, one hamster and one finch were killed in the blaze, and a clothing store next door lost its entire inventory. But assistant fire marshal Chris Etheredge told The Dothan Eagle that the damage could have been much worse.

Firefighters acted quickly, he said, one crew extinguishing the flames, another evacuating people and animals and a third setting up fans to expel the smoke.

Beautiful You, the clothing store next door, suffered smoke damage. Her clothing is dry-clean only, and that process can't remove smoke damage.

"We'll have to buy all new stuff," said Martha McRae, the store's owner. "I was just upset because I could imagine my life's work going down the drain."

Barbaree said firefighters believe a lamp in the dead snake's cage either shorted or fell over on bedding material.

"The bedding in this case was pine pellets. They fueled the fire," Barbaree said.

Still, Barbaree said he was relieved the death toll among his animals wasn't higher. His store is open again for business, and he urges people to come pick out a pet for their loved ones for Valentine's Day.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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