Hatton said he and a Suffolk police officer found the source of the smoke in a basement stockroom where an automatic sprinkler system had contained most of the blaze. Hatton and the officer put out the fire within five minutes, using a fire extinguisher, Hatton said.
About 40 firefighters set up a line to carry the animals -- 74 dogs and cats, 50 birds and 60 rodents and reptiles -- to safety.
Outside, the animals were met by a small, informal rescue crew, including 30-year store manager Bill Brown, another employee whose father had a scanner on when the call went out and a few of Selmer's customers who noticed the police activity and stopped to help. "It was a long night, but everything worked out," said Brown, 48, of East Northport. "Nobody was hurt. There were no fatalities -- nothing." He said the fire had caused "a few thousand dollars" in damage and the shop would be open for business by tomorrow morning at the latest.
Brown said he knew from experience that things could have turned out differently. After a devastating 1988 blaze gutted Selmer's and killed more than 150 pets, Brown said second-generation owner Al Selmer had the facility rebuilt "to [fire] code and then some." He said Selmer added a sprinkler and alarm system, double insulation between floors and cages that could be lifted and moved.
Selmer's, which has been operating since 1939, had a second building for the animals "just in case there was a problem," Brown said.
Written by Newsday
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