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Home With Thousands Of Reptiles Goes Up In Flames

BRIGHTON, Colo. (CBS4) - Fire engulfed a home in the northeastern part of the Denver metro area Thursday morning at daybreak, causing heavy damage. Thousands of reptiles were being housed in the home's basement.

Thick smoke poured from the home as firefighters worked to put the fire out with hoses in very cold temperatures. The thermometer showed a reading of 12 degrees while the firefight was going on.

The home is located at 144th and Umpire, near Brighton. Firefighters were called to the home at 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

There was no initial word on what caused the fire, but officials said it started in the garage, burning two vehicles in the process.

At least five people were in the home at the time and all escaped safely but five dogs died, according to authorities.

"We're heartbroken. Everything we've ever owned is gone. All of our cars are gone. We only have two cars left. This one and a Mustang so that's not very much help. Everything else is gone, though," said Samantha Lamb who lived in the home. "Everything's gone. They don't think anything is saveable."

fireCopter4 image (credit: CBS)

Officials said the homeowners also kept snakes and other reptiles in the home, and had as many as 8,000. Officials with the Rocky Mountain Reptile Expo were working with emergency officials and the homeowners to try to help find new temporary or permanent homes for the animals who survived.

The reptiles included several different types of snakes, pythons, tortoises, lizards and others. Some were not housed in cages and that created a unique challenge for firefighters working to rescue the animals.

"But they were also aggressive so that was another issue that we had to be concerned about. Apparently some of the breeds are more aggressive than others so we were very cautious in trying to deal with them," said Brighton Fire Department Chief Mark Bordane. "Thankfully most of them were caged. We only had a few loose snakes that we had to deal with but they were also aggressive."

The family raised the reptiles for local reptile stores and the Rocky Mountain Reptile Expo.

It took firefighters a little while longer to get the fire under control because of the lack of fire hydrants in the rural area. Fire crews had to bring their own water.

"This is an area that didn't have fire hydrants so we had to shuttle all the water from our fire stations," said Bordane.

The fire moved quickly from the garage into the attic. Firefighters said a floor fell into the second story of the home.

All images below captured by Copter4 (credit: CBS)






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