Thirty-eight animals died and an eastern Texas veterinary hospital was left in ruins when a late-night fire roared through the clinic.
The cause of the fire appeared to be electrical in nature, investigators said.
“It started out in front of our building, and it stayed there until it moved,” practice manager Sarah Jane Sharpless said. “But like any vet hospital, we have oxygen tanks, and when the oxygen blew, that was it.”
The fire at Kimbrough Animal Hospital in Longview, Texas, was reported around 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, nearly five hours after closing time.
Sharpless, who lives 40 minutes away, said the wife of clinic owner Kenneth Kimbrough, DVM, and a co-worker called her with the news.
“I got here at 11:15 last night, and it was already [fully engulfed],” Sharpless said.
All but three of the 38 dead animals—mostly dogs—were being boarded overnight. Two of the other victims were clinic cats and the third was recovering from surgery.
Firefighters rescued six animals, but only two survived. Suffering from smoke inhalation, they were taken to East Texas Animal Hospital, where Kimbrough Animal Hospital’s other veterinarian, Lela Bogard, DVM, tended to them.
Sharpless and other employees were in contact with the owners of the dead animals.
“We have heard from most of them,” Sharpless said. “They’ve been very compassionate. We have had a practice here for 35 years. We love our patients and our clients, and they know that.”
Dr. Kimbrough, a graduate of Texas A&M University, opened the clinic in 1980. A recent renovation of the front office added a fish tank and replaced cabinets and countertops, Sharpless said.
Kimbrough intends to rebuild on the same spot, she said.
The hospital has fire insurance. The value of the loss was not immediately known.
“Right now we’re trying to take care of what’s in front of us and see where we go from here,” Sharpless said.