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Four Fire Departments Respond to Smithtown Pet Store Blaze

70 animals rescued while departments stress proper safety

By Chad Kushins

Five separate local fire departments responded to a major fire in Smithtown yesterday afternoon, extinguishing a blaze above the Pick of the Litter pet store that found 70 animals rescued and five dead.  The fire – which began just before noon on July 23rd and saw the first response team arriving at 11:55am – also prompted a press conference, which immediately followed rescue teams’ successful efforts to put it out in a matter of minutes.

“The chief cause for concern in getting each and every animal out that we could was the factor of smoke inhalation,” said Smithtown’s Second Assistant Fire Chief Tim Murphy, who was also one of the earliest responders to the scene.  “It appeared that the fire actually started above the pet store, in a private apartment, and we found more animals up there.”

According to Murphy, when firefighters entered the above-located apartment building – whose residents were made photo - Smithtown Fire Departmentanonymous as the investigation continues – they were quick to spot a few small dogs and cats cowering under tables and furniture, frightened by the flames around them.  As the firefighters continued to rescue as many of the pet store’s animal inventory as possible, a large hole was also strategically cut into the building’s roof for additional ventilation. 

“That was a common practice for a fire like this one,” Murphy told Smithtown Matters.  “The main concerns for the animals were the fire itself, but also inhalation of smoke and carbon monoxide … It’s a factor that can incapacitate people and animals very quickly if the smoke isn’t lead out of the building.  We immediately carved the hole in the roof to work as a large chimney.”

Joined by the Kings Park, Nesconset, and Saint James Fire Departments, Murphy and Smithtown Fire Chief John Hansen were able to prevent massive smoke inhalation by the animals and extinguish the blaze itself in only a matter of minutes.  According to the department, one resident was hospitalized as a result of the fire – an unidentified male in his 20s who, not only lives near to the scene, but was credited as the fire citizen to call and report the fire.  All rescued animals were safely detained by Smithtown Animal Control. 

Located at 105 East Main Street, Pick of the Litter has been in for business for fifteen years, yet changed hands in March of this year and is currently owned and operated by Saint James resident Elizabeth Persico.  According to Tim Murphy, although the fire is “suspected as being accidental,” the Smithtown Fire Marshal is currently conducting an ongoing investigation.

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