Pet boarding

Georgetown Fire Chief’s Ideas to Prevent Another Pet Boarding Tragedy

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — It has been nearly four months since 75 dogs were killed in a fire at the Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown, leaving dozens of grieving families behind. Investigators said there were no staff at the pet resort overnight at the time and the property did not have a fire suppression system.

On Tuesday, Georgetown Fire Department Chief John Sullivan presented recommendations to city council to prevent such a situation from happening again.

“A lot of people, myself included, believe animals are extensions of our family,” Sullivan said. “As a direct result of this indescribable loss to 59 of our Georgetown families, we have taken a hard look at how our building codes may require fire safety measures that can protect our four-legged family members.”

The proposed amendments would require that animal housing or care facilities used for the temporary or permanent housing of animals:

  • Provide an electronically supervised automatic smoke detection system or rapid response heat detectors, if the facility is not equipped with a sprinkler system.
  • Consider 24-hour on-site supervision.
  • Ensure that the interior finish of the kennel walls has a Class A finish.
  • Install automatic sprinkler systems in certain circumstances, such as when these facilities do not have walls made of fire-resistant materials or when each animal does not have immediate and unobstructed access to the outdoors.
  • Install electronically supervised carbon monoxide detection systems where animals are kept, if not under constant supervision.

Georgetown Fire says its investigation found the fire started in the kennel area around 10:40 p.m. in September. Investigators said building materials may have contributed to the spread of smoke, and smoke conditions inside changed rapidly around 10:52 p.m.

The department said it has already taken steps to prevent similar incidents in the future, including auditing and inspecting the 26 animal care facilities in the Georgetown area and adding additional accommodation or pet care to its annual list.

Kelly Thyssen lost her dog, Fiona, to the Ponderosa Pet Resort fire. She said she had Fiona for over nine years and was an integral part of his business as well as a big part of his family.

Fiona crosses the bluebonnets. Courtesy of Kelly Thyssen

“She traveled the state with me providing CPR and first aid training to pet owners and pet professionals. She was everyone’s best friend and knew no enemies in life except maybe fireworks. Losing her in such a tragic way was heartbreaking, and the past four months I have spent trying to get over and grow from that loss,” Thyssen said.

During her career as an animal control officer, Thyssen said she witnessed many tragedies, including responding to fires and having to be the one to tell a pet owner that their animal is not could not be saved. She said this event impacted her and her family on many levels.

Kelly Thyssen and her dog, Fiona.  Courtesy of Kelly Thyssen
Kelly Thyssen and her dog, Fiona. Courtesy of Kelly Thyssen

“I am grateful that the City of Georgetown is working on incredible changes that will hopefully save lives, both animal and human. I believe the proposed fire code changes are a good start and will lead to setting the precedent needed to move toward state and federal code changes,” Thyssen said. “This fire, as tragic as it has been for so many families, has a silver lining, and that is to shine a light on the need to provide better standards in the animal industry as a whole.”

Georgetown fire investigators have classified the cause of the fire as undetermined. They hypothesize six potential causes for what could have happened on September 18, 2021, and all of them are related to the site’s electrical equipment.

“The Georgetown Fire Department and others have spent the past four months examining the scene of the fire, conducting interviews, conducting tests and more, trying to determine what happened. and shut down families and our community,” Sullivan said. “While we cannot pinpoint the exact cause, we have ruled out several and narrowed it down to six possible causes. We have also taken and offered actions that will help mitigate these devastating losses in the future, so that we may we learn from this tragedy and do better for our beloved pets.

Sullivan said he found six electrical appliances near the north interior wall of the facility where video surveillance shows the fire started. Investigators said they were unable to rule out any of the six devices as the cause of the fire and whether the electrical circuits were overloaded.

Here are the six hypotheses of the investigators:

  • One of the two blower motors failed and melted the plastic around them to its ignition point.
  • The air purifier broke down and melted the plastic to its ignition point.
  • Rodent repellent ignited in wall outlet and ignited surrounding materials.
  • The extension cord failed, melted through the siding and ignited surrounding materials.
  • The bug killer created an environment that sustained a flame and melted, catching fire around him.
  • Failure of the building’s electrical system.

Lawyer Ard Ardalan represents several pet owners who are suing Ponderosa Pet Resort. He said they hope Georgetown’s code changes could be a model for other municipalities in Texas and across the country.

“While we are frustrated that firefighters cannot conclusively determine the root cause of the fire, we know the fire was both preventable and likely would have been extinguished sooner had there been a system. fire detection in the unlicensed kennel,” Ardalan said. . “We are encouraged that the city is taking concrete steps to keep kennels safe. Many of the proposed changes are low-cost, common-sense solutions that will save precious lives in the future.

Investigators said structural damage from the fire was estimated at $757,000.