Central Texas pet facilities make changes after September resort fire kills 75 animals

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GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — Fire investigators still don’t know the cause of the deadly fire that killed 75 pets in September, but firefighters believe the flames started in the main kennel boarding area at the Ponderosa Pet Resort in Georgetown.

The devastating fire has caused boarding facilities across Central Texas to look at their own safety measures and make some changes.

Kristie Krolczyk owns the ‘My Life Fur Paws’ pet resort in Hudson Bend. She personally knows the owner of the Ponderosa Pet Resort where smoke or heat detectors, a fire suppression system and sprinklers weren’t installed.

“I opened this facility with the belief that these are not just dogs or cats,” said Krolczyk. “These are kids to some people.”

She says she’s part of a wider movement among pet resort owners to determine how they can make the industry better.

“For me, that is inviting the Lake Travis Fire Department inside to recommend changes. We gave them a map of the facility, and we’re moving forward with those recommendations.”

Some suggestions the department made were to raise the smoke sensors up higher, create emergency maps displaying where the little and big animals are inside the facility and use clear indicators on how many animals are inside the facility at any given time.

Krolczyk says she’s part of a Facebook group with facility owners and since the Ponderosa incident, there’s been an open discussion surrounding the fire. One of the biggest recommendations is to provide overnight care as many facilities don’t nor are they required to.

“We’ve added overnight staffing and I’m paying well for that,” said Krolczyk. “I understand that the bottom line is huge. We’ve gotta look at our operational costs, but for me I’d rather spend a few thousand more to have that piece of mind.”

Georgetown’s Fire Chief John Sullivan discussed the known timeline of the fire, which was believed to have started in the main kennel/boarding area just before 11 p.m. on Sept. 18. 

Fifty-nine families in total were affected by the fire. The resort’s owner said at the time “I feel their heartbreak intensely,” and characterized the fire as “accidental.” At the time, fire officials had not confirmed the cause.

Sullivan said the building material may have contributed to the smoke spread, and there were no supervised smoke or heat detection devices in the facility. There was also no fire suppression system. 

Families and community members set up a memorial outside the businessGeorgetown’s City Council also approved funding to build a permanent memorial at the city’s Bark Park. 

In the days that followed, owners and the community called for accountability. 

The pet resort did not have a kennel permit — however, that permit only required it to have adequate space and follow animal health regulations and wouldn’t have made the facility have sprinklers or overnight staffing. The City said it wouldn’t fine Ponderosa Pet Resort, as others in the area are also without a permit, and it said it wanted to focus on education and awareness. 

The City said it’s working to update city fire codes and expected resolutions to come before city council in the fall. The pet resort’s owner said it will also work to implement measures to prevent incidents like this.

During the briefing on Friday, Sullivan outlined some of those changes. Those actions include: 

  • Created definition for “Animal Housing or Care Facilities” with priority inspection to be conducted on annual basis
  • Audit and inspection on all animal care facilities
  • Coordinated investigations with third parties to evaluate findings
  • Basic burn evaluation of construction material (panel and insulation) 
  • Attended ICC Code Hearings in Pittsburgh
  • Solicitied community input for code revisions

Georgetown Fire also discussed what would happen next in the investigation, which focused on finding the possible source of the fire and releasing a final report once all information was received.

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