ORLANDO, Fla. -- More than 20 cats were killed when a fire broke out at an Orlando animal shelter, officials said.
Orange County Fire Rescue found flames “through the roof" when they arrived at the center shortly after 10:21 p.m. Wednesday, the agency said on Twitter.
Steve Bardy, the executive director of the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, called the fire his “worst nightmare.”
He told news outlets that rescue crews were able to safely evacuate all 25 dogs at the center. They were further away from the fire's point of origin, he said.
“It appears the fire started in the front building by the clinic, which made it more difficult for fire rescue to go into the adjacent) cat room,” Bardy told news outlets at the scene. His voice broke as he talked about the fire.
“If you run a shelter, this is literally your worst nightmare — to see your building on fire and know that there are animals in there that you’re charged to care for and you can’t go in,” he said.
At least half of the building was heavily damaged by the fire. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.
The dogs and some surviving cats were taken to a Pet Alliance shelter in Sanford, officials said.
Bardy said he wasn't sure of the exact number of cats in the shelter on Wednesday, but it could have been as many as 35. Ten cats were rescued, but some may not survive, he said.