HVAC fire causes evacuation at QA’s animal shelter
No animals or people were injured when a small fire broke out in the dog adoption area of the animal shelter in Queenstown Tuesday afternoon, April 6.
Staff members smelled smoke and traced it to the closet housing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit near the kitchen, said Brittany Fox, communications director at Queen Anne’s County Animal Services.
“They opened the door. They could see smoke coming out, and there were some flames,” Fox said. It was in the ductwork of the HVAC unit.
They closed the door, shut off the unit and called 911. As the building filled with smoke, they quickly started evacuating the animals.
Queenstown Volunteer Fire Department and Lori Morris, assistant chief of special operations with the Department of Emergency Services, responded.
Morris began coordinating county resources. Animal Control responded with the county AKC ReUnite Trailer along with Paul Kurst and the county Public Works team.
“The animal care and adoption teams knew exactly what to do in an emergency situation. They were amazing,” Fox said. “These girls, they dedicate themselves to the animals.”
She also was impressed by the quick response from emergency services. With the unit turned off, Fox said she thinks the fire burnt itself out before the fire department arrived, but the firefighters made sure it was extinguished and helped evacuate the adoption building — 14 dogs and about 10 cats.
Between the surgical kennels and kennels in offices in the front building, room was found to temporarily relocate the adoptable animals without having to use the emergency trailer, Fox said.
The smell was terrible, and they let the adoption building air out for two days before moving the animals and staff back in, she added. Fortunately, the spring temperatures have kept the building comfortable and habitable while they are waiting for the HVAC unit to be replaced.
“Our county response along with Queenstown Volunteer Fire Department quickly ot the situation under control with no casualties,” the county said in a news release. “This coordinated effort shows how well our departments and allied agencies can work together during any emergency to keep all of our residents safe, including our animal residents.”
“The staff and animals are all safe. We cannot thank our animal care and adoption team enough for springing into action and moving all the animals to safety. Thank you to the Queen Anne’s County Department of Emergency Services and the Queen Anne’s County Public Works Department for responding so quickly in our time of need,” Ramon Villatoro, chief of Animal Services, posted on Facebook afterward. “We would also like to thank all of the responding fire departments who came out to help us as well. The staff and animals of QACAS are extremely grateful for all if you.”