Dozens of animals killed in Florida animal shelter fire

An estimated 20 to 30 cats were killed in a fire at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando on Wednesday night in what the shelter’s executive director called his “worst nightmare.”

The fire, reported to Orange County Fire Rescue at 10:21 p.m., severely damaged the 5,000 square foot building, located at 2727 Conroy Road near the Millenia Mall. “Flames [were] through the roof” of the shelter, the agency said on Twitter.

Steve Bardy, executive director of the nonprofit, said rescuers arrived in time to safely evacuate the 25 dogs, who were in an area further from the origin of the fire.

“It appears the fire started in the front building near the clinic, which made it more difficult for firefighters to get to the adjacent chat room,” Bardy told reporters at the scene, his voice sometimes breaking.

“If you’re running a shelter, it’s literally your worst nightmare – seeing your building on fire and knowing that there are animals inside that you’re responsible for looking after that you can’t get in,” did he declare.

The fire severely damaged at least half of the building, which sits across from an Orange County Animal Services parking lot. The cause of the fire was not immediately known. No humans were reported injured.

The Pet Alliance has a second shelter in Sanford, where the dogs and five to ten surviving cats have been transferred. Another 150 animals in the agency’s care – including the youngest kittens – are currently living in foster homes, which has kept the death toll from rising.

According to a report by WFTV, about 19 cats were rescued.

Bardy said he didn’t have the exact number of cats in the shelter at the time, but there could be as many as 35. Ten were rescued, but some of them might not survive, he said.

He praised the quick response of the Orange County Fire Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which assisted with evacuations.

“I’m grateful that the firefighters, you know, put their lives on the line to…help save as many as they could,” he said. “I am eternally grateful for that.”

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