AN electrical fault has been blamed for a fire which killed hundreds of animals, birds and fish at Cramlington’s Animal Tracks pet shop on Sunday.
The store, within the Azure Garden Centre in Station Road, was destroyed as fire swept through it, leaving almost all the birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles and fish inside dead.
Partners Helen Edwards and Jason Seymour only opened the store last year, eight years after launching their first store in Ashington.
It was just two days away from reaching its second birthday when it was engulfed by flames.
Helen told the News Post Leader: “We got a call from the garden centre at 8.30am to say there had been a horrific fire.
“Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw when we got there. It was complete devastation. There was nothing left.
“The firemen were still on site, but we couldn’t go in. We were waiting to see whether we could get to any of the animals.
“A couple of the reptiles had escaped, so we rescued them.
“After three hours, they allowed us to go in. We had to rescue the fish by torch light, wading through the water.
“We lost all our birds, rabbits guinea pigs, snakes and spiders.
“Of the 1,200 to 1,500 fish, we saved maybe five per cent.
“Not counting the fish, we lost around 50 animals.
“It’s devastating. It still hasn’t sunk in. The building itself is insured. It can be rebuilt – it’s the loss of life. We don’t just sell animals, they are our animals.
“To think we weren’t there when it happened – it’s that thing in the back of your mind, what if we had been there?
“Would we have been able to rescue more of the animals?”
A loss adjuster was due to visit the shop yesterday to assess the damage.
A fire brigade investigation is believed to have pinpointed the cause of the fire as an electrical fault.
Helen, currently 30 weeks pregnant, added: “We’ve lost a very good business.
“In this recession, it’s the last thing that you need, and this is the busiest time of year, so it couldn’t have come at a worst time, although obviously no time is the right time for something like this.
“The garden centre has allocated us another area within the garden centre. We are hoping to be up and running there within three weeks.”
Helen said she and Jason had been overwhelmed by the support of their staff and customers.
“We’ve had customers come in crying, saying how sorry they are,” she said. “I’ve had messages saying if there is anything they can do to help clear up, help with the building.
“It’s really overwhelming. The amount of support has been absolutely tremendous.
“The staff have been absolutely amazing. They have really pulled together, but everyone is absolutely distraught.
“The animals that were rescued are recuperating in the Ashington store, and some are at home with the staff.
“We are hoping to put them back in the store when we are back up and running to keep a little bit of what was there before.”