SCHUYLKILL COUNTY, Pa. — Just two days after a search warrant shed light on the full scale of conditions at the home on Trout Run Road, flames broke out there.
"There were so many animals inside the house," said Dave Briggs, Union Township Supervisor, of the Thursday he and officials from several agencies began bringing out the animals.
"We were packed to the gills with all the transporters ... some of those animals now are having problems, they're ill," said Dana Mansell, Hillside SPCA Humane Officer based in Pottsville.
The fire started where more than 100 animals have now been confiscated in Zion Grove, which is in Union Township, near Ringtown. As of now, officials say the animals removed include 32 dogs as well as cats, goats, pigs, and horses.
"Even a turtle, we found in there," said Briggs.
The Department of Agriculture had been quarantining chickens and ducks there for fear of avian flu. The birds were cleared that morning.
"Thank God that nobody got hurt and that it wasn't like the house didn't burn down or anything like that," said Dave Grady, the owners' next-door neighbor.
Grady, who can see a good amount of the neighbors' mess from his yard, says the couple meant well.
"They're actually very nice people. I've known them a long time; I'm here over 27 years. They really did care about the animals, I know," he said.
But he admits the clutter was out of control.
"My insurance company was afraid of a fire hazard. And with pine trees like that, you can't have that."
Saturday's fire seemed to prove that right.
"With the way the leaves are and stuff now, I mean, there's always a potential," said Officer Phillip Beaver, Union Township Police Dept.
But neighbor Patricia Lombardi, who lives five miles down the road and came to help out after learning of the situation, says the owners were overwhelmed, trying to rescue animals.
"They're begging for help from people," she said. "Nobody helped."
Officials say the couple had started a controlled pit fire that morning to burn some of the trash.
"It was a fire that went from a fire pit and spread quickly. There were propane tanks up there that were exploding and stuff," said Officer Phillip Beaver.
Officials say the fire was contained to storage sheds on the property:
"With all that material leaning against it, the cardboard boxes -- with all that food, it just took off," said Briggs.
Multiple fire units from multiple jurisdictions showed up.
"They did an amazing job yesterday, keeping it contained to where it was. With the high winds and stuff that were here," said Ofc. Beaver.
Officials say to the best of their knowledge, all humans and animals made it out safely except for two rats.
Patricia Lombardi says she and one of the owners were able to get some of the remaining animals still on the property away from the fire.
"We both went running into a fire to catch ducks. She said, 'I'm not letting my animals die this way,'" said Lombardi.
Officials won't say at this time whether there will be any charges, as the investigation is still open.
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