A fire at wholesale pet supplier Quality Pets Inc. in Oklahoma City blazed for nearly three hours last Friday afternoon, February 29, 2008, causing an estimated couple hundred thousand dollars worth of damage. However, the company reopened for business this week and expects to return to a full schedule next week thanks to a little good luck and the bravery of the local firefighter squad, according to Donnie Fleming, owner and president of the company. Fleming is also the elected chairman for the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA).
“Watching from across the road, I wouldn’t have thought anything would come out alive,” said Fleming who was evacuated along with 70 employees. “Those [firefighters] are really heroes.”
Not only did all people – including the 60-plus firefighters present – come out safe, but so did several thousand birds and small animals, such as rats, in part because of a double-walled fire wall that kept the fire from spreading. The fire, most likely electrical, broke out around 2 p.m. in the attic and quickly jumped to paper records stored in the area, Fleming said. Within 20 minutes, flames were shooting from the roof.
“We literally had to run people out of the building,” he said.
Five interconnected buildings housing different species, including a fish hatchery, and a dry goods division make up Quality Pets’ headquarters. The fire destroyed a bird quarantine room where a number of baby birds were located, as well as part of the bird and small animal rooms and most of the reptile segment. Fleming described those rooms as “almost bunker like,” surrounded by concrete pillars, which further prevented the fire from spreading.
Additionally, all of the animals’ cages were put on rolling racks in a redesign three years ago in order to make them easier to move for cleaning. A fortuitous decision that proved life-saving for a number of animals as the firefighters were able to roll the racks right out of the building.
“It was serendipitous. They rescued 85 percent of the livestock,” Fleming said. “You could hear the cheers every time they came out with more [animals].”
As the roof fell, however, a majority of the company’s reptiles were lost. Only a handful of its breeding stock was saved, but “it could have been a lot worse” overall, Fleming said.
Calling the insurance company “very helpful,” Fleming said the fire isn’t slowing down business. He expects that the roof will be fixed this weekend; all customer shipments were completed as scheduled this week; and its reptile supply will be replenished within a week or two.
“We aren’t going to let this inhibit us,” he added.
Although employees didn’t have time to grab anything on their way out of the building, one woman in the process of hand-feeding a bird, wrapped the chick in a towel and took it out with her. Nicknamed “Lucky,” the bird has found a new home as the company’s mascot.