Kennel fire kills 2 dogs

A fire broke out Wednesday in a Claremont kennel, killing two puppies housed inside.

The 400-square-foot dog kennel was on fire when emergency responders arrived on the scene about 12:40 p.m. at 1143 Cheyenne Oaks Drive in Claremont. Firefighters were unable to save the building, as it was destroyed in the blaze.

The kennel's owners, James and Shirley Hicks, live several yards away from the structure, and they heard their two 9-week-old Labrador puppies barking as flames engulfed the building.

"I heard those little dogs screaming at the top of their lungs," Shirley said. "You could tell when I first heard them that something was bad wrong."

She looked outside at the dog kennel and saw flames covering the inside of the building. James went outside to try and save the puppies. He said he approached the kennel doors, but heat overwhelmed him, making it impossible to get inside the kennel.

"I was too late," James said.

The Hicks raised Yorkshire Terriers and Pomeranians for about 10 years. The two puppies lost in the fire were the only dogs they had currently. They kept the dogs inside the kennel, where the Hicks said the animals had food, water, air conditioning and heat. The kennel, which was about 10 years old, could house about 40 animals.
"They were pampered," Shirley said.

James said a heat lamp was inside the building to keep the dogs warm because they were puppies that couldn't tolerate heat well.

Shirley said she heard the air conditioning unit explode as flames continued to engulf the kennel and expand to the outside of the building.

Firefighters contained the blaze and extinguished the flames within minutes of arriving at the kennel. The dogs weren't located inside the building and are presumed dead, said Newton Fire Chief Kevin Yoder.

Newton Fire Department brought three engines, one ladder truck, four support vehicles and 19 personnel to the scene. Bandys Fire Department brought its tanker truck.

After firefighters extinguished the blaze and cleared the scene, investigators from the Catawba County Fire Marshal Office arrived to determine what caused the fire.

Yoder said he thinks the fire was started by small heating appliances in the kennel, which were placed too close to combustible materials. The Catawba County Fire Marshal's Office is continuing the investigation.

James and Shirley watched from a safe distance as firefighters blasted water on what was once their kennel. Shirley wiped her eyes, while James shook his head at the site of the fire-ravaged building. Only a few pieces of wood and mesh remained after the fire.

"I don't care so much about the kennel," James said. "It just bothers me that something living had to die."

Newton Fire Department encourages all pet owners to care for their outdoor animals during cold weather. If pet owners decide to use heating devices to keep their animals warm, the fire department asks owners to use caution, including keeping the heating source away from combustible materials and not using frayed or damaged wiring.