Firefighters find large alligator, turtle, rabbits, chinchillas, cats and dogs at house fire in Dover


A slow parade of firefighters — each of them holding an ash-covered animal — emerged from a house on Mayfield Street after a fire Tuesday morning.

At least six chinchillas, two cats, a tortoise, two Weimaraners, a Great Dane and an alligator — said to be 3 to 5 feet in length — were rescued from the home.

While EMTs administered oxygen to the shaken-up critters, neighbors milled about to offer what help they could. Some brought over boxes, others blankets, and another unfolded a playpen to house the pets.

Marc LaFlamme, who lives around the corner on Main Street, was hugging a shivering chinchilla to his chest as the menagerie continued to grow.

"I just feel bad for them," he said, looking down at the black ball of fluff in his arms. "I'm just trying to help keep them warm."

Fire officials were unsure of the total number of pets rescued from the home.

Response: Crews from the Dover Township Volunteer Fire Department first arrived on the scene at the two-story Dover home, from which smoke was billowing, around 9 a.m. said Deputy Chief Brian Widmayer.

Several other departments responded.

"I saw the smoke before (firefighters) got here," said Tanya Querry, who lives in the house next door. "I went to make the call and I already saw them coming down the street."

The homeowners are in Florida, Querry said, and their brother — who saved two of the dogs himself before being taken away in an ambulance for minor injuries — was house-sitting at the time of the fire.

Union Fire and Hose Co. Chief Roger Flohr said the fire was accidental.

"It was either unattended cooking or something at the stove," he said, adding that the kitchen was completely gutted.

Flohr said the house is not habitable and the homeowners have been notified of the incident.

The fire was under control within several minutes of the crews' arrival, Widmayer said, but their work was not quite finished.

"My crew did a great job," he said. "And they managed to pull out a lot of animals."

Through York County 911, a fire official requested a vet report to the scene because of the "large amount of animals."

Pets: Querry said the homeowners most likely had more than 40 pets, ranging from fish to chickens and pheasants.

"They're the most kind people, and it's just heartbreaking that this has happened to them," she said. "Their pets are better taken care of than most people's children."

The rescued animals were taken to the Dover Area Animal Hospital, where they will be cared for until the owners are able to claim them, said Dr. Dan Pike of the animal hospital.

A damage estimate was not immediately available Tuesday evening.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at