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Fire Kills Animals On Layaway For Christmas At Md. Pet Shop

RISING SUN, Md. (WJZ) — Any loss is hard in a fire. But when your inventory is made up of animals, it's especially difficult.

Alex DeMetrick reports it happened when fire swept through a Cecil County pet store.

The empty cages inside Jon's Exotic Pets hint at the loss from Wednesday night's fire in the Cecil County town of Rising Sun.

"I'm not going to go into specifics. We had a lot of animals lost and a lot of the families are going to grieving because they put layaways and deposits in for Christmas," said John Belew Jr., pet store owner.

Photos captured Belew's shock as fire spread through his business.

Firefighters quickly upped the response to two alarms and saved what animals they could. But vulnerable and trapped in cages, escape wasn't possible for most.

The fire caused heavy damage to the shop.

"Lot of water damage, smoke damage. This end of the building here is going to have to be gutted completely," Belew said.

The fire also forced out two families living in apartments above the store. They're currently being aided by the Red Cross.

"It could have been later in the night and a lot of people sleeping. You know, we could be looking at body bags or something," Belew said.

A catering business was also damaged during one of the busiest times of the year.

And along with the warning signs, the pet store owner has a message to his customers.

"I'm so sorry for your loss. You're going through it just like us, but we'll be back," Belew said. "I can tell you this, with God on your side, all things can happen."

The state fire marshal says the cause of the blaze is under investigation, but there is no indication the fire was deliberately set.

The fire is being investigated as an accident.

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