The fire started on Saturday night. The Georgetown Fire Department said that 25 firefighters were sent to deal with the blaze at Ponderosa Pet Resort after they received multiple calls reporting the flames.
Fire Chief John Sullivan said during a press briefing on Sunday: “My heart just dropped when I got the address and knew exactly what location we were going to.”
Fire crews got to the resort in less than five minutes but at that time, the building was already inundated with smoke. Firefighters got access to the building, but they were too late. They found that all 75 dogs who were staying at the resort had been killed.
No humans were in the building at the time of the blaze. Officials are working alongside the owner of the resort to return the pets’ remains to their respective families, Fox 17 reported.
City officials said the owner was remorseful, cooperative and that they “have no reason to believe that he was trying to compromise the care of any of the family members that were left in his care”.
Investigators are working to find the cause of the fire and if any alarms or other fire suppression measures were in use.
“We’re looking at all leads possible so that when we look these homeowners back in the eye, the property owners, those that lost family members, we can tell them conclusively what happened,” Chief Sullivan said. “But then more importantly not just what happened, this is where together we can try to figure out how we can prevent something like this from happening again in the future.”
Large parts of the 7,500 square-foot (697m) facility suffered smoke damage but no fire damage, leading investigators to believe that most of the dogs died from smoke inhalation and not from direct contact with the fire.
“My heart goes out because it was unfair that I could go home last night and give my dog Rockford the biggest hug possible,” Cheif Sullivan said, according to CBS Austin. “He’s my comfort, he’s my confidant. And many of these homeowners have had that ripped out from them now. And I shouldn’t say homeowners, they’re the family members that have now lost a loved one.”
“It’s hard to accept the fact that we showed up in such a quick fashion, yet we were unable to save even one life in this building,” he added. “The conditions and the smoke allowed it to be such to where it was not tenable, and that's difficult for us to wrap our brains around. And so there is not closure for us, but what we do want to do is provide closure to those that lost a family member here last night and allow them to be reunited.”