Dozens of animals perish in Hillsborough warehouse fire


HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla.  (WFLA) – Fire destroyed a 14,000 square foot warehouse in the 5800 block of Barry Road off the Veterans Expressway Thursday afternoon.

Renuit Supply, a discount warehouse full of cleaning supplies, paper and plastic products and machine rentals, is a total loss.

Nearly 60 firefighters had to be called in to fight the flames as plumes of black smoke billowed into the air.

The building was made of metal and Corey Dierdorff of Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue said it made the firefighters’ job that much more difficult.

“That metal keeps the heat trapped inside which is very difficult for firefighters to actually put that fire out,” he said as firefighters were forced to demolish the building.

The owner, Peter Desouza, could only watch from across the street as the building went up in smoke.

“There’s no rhyme or method to any of this except I just lost a lifetime of savings,” he said staring at the building.  “It really hasn’t affected me, the thought of the building burning, but more so going in later and going through all my stuff.”

Desouza also told News Channel 8 there were more than two dozen animals inside, including dogs, cats, birds, even a monkey named Ringo.  He said they were part of an animal rescue he runs called Tipped Cat.

“But I did have some animals here to give them personal care,” Desouza said.  “They had access to fresh air and outside.  We saw them every day and everything was great.”

At last check, most of the animals didn’t survive, although a woman in the neighborhood told us a dog may have been rescued and HCFR says some cats made it out safely.

Desouza keeping animals at the warehouse was a part of operating the animal rescue.

“When you’re an animal lover, you get used to death and sickness,” he told News Channel 8.  “You accept bad things and deal with it and get up and help other animals.”

Desouza believes it will take three months to possibly salvage anything inside.  After that, he plans on rebuilding the building and then selling it.  He didn’t have any insurance.

News Channel 8 wanted to know if it was legal to keep the animals inside the warehouse. A spokesperson for Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue told us that will be part of the investigation.

One firefighter was hospitalized for heat exhaustion.

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