Fla. FFs Battle Blaze at Animal Clinic

EDGEWATER, Fla. --

Firefighters battled a blaze at an animal clinic in Volusia County Friday evening.

The Animal Clinic of Edgewater in the 2300 block of Ridgewood Avenue became fully engulfed in flames at about 5:30 p.m., according to fire officials.

The clinic's staff evacuated safely, officials said. One person was sent to a hospital to be checked out because of over-exertion, officials said.

A significant effort to rescue the animals in the clinic began when the fire broke out, fire officials said. All of the animals made it out safe, according to the staff.

The state fire marshal said the fire was likely caused by someone who didn't properly put out their cigarette. Officials said the fire started outside the clinic, but winds caused the flames to spread to the back of the building.

"As a vet, this is my worst nightmare," said Dr. Kim Castro.

Castro said she and her fellow workers, along with strangers and firefighters, rushed to rescue pets there for care, grooming and boarding.

"We wouldn't get out of the building until all the animals were out," Castro said.

Receptionist Brandy Dean said someone used the blaze for a crime of opportunity and stole her 9-week-old teacup Chihuahua.

"One of the other techs grabbed my puppy, handed her to somebody and we lost track of her," Dean said.

The puppy was dropped off at a nearby fire station Saturday morning to be returned to its rightful owner.

Castro said at least 30 animals were in the clinic at the time of the fire.

"Three birds, cats, dogs, possum, people, everybody got out," she said.

Officials said the clinic was destroyed.

Castro said she and her husband hope to salvage the clinic's records.

"I'm just so blessed we're all here," she said.

The fire was ruled an accident, but police said potential carelessness caused quite a scare and a big mess.

The Castros were planning on building another clinic down the road. They said the fire may speed up that process.

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