JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A dozen dogs were rescued Tuesday afternoon from a small house fire in the Sans Souci neighborhood, authorities said.
Smoke was visible when Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department crews arrived just before 4 p.m. to the home on Whitney Nicole Lane, not far from Parental Home and Hogan roads.
Firefighters said they had no way of getting into the house, so they had to break a window to find the source of the fire.
Fire investigators learned the fire started as the result of a water heater that ignited inside the garage. But they said it took them a little longer than usual to get to the water heater because there were so many items blocking their path in the garage.
The owner of the home was not inside when the blaze started, but firefighters told News4Jax that there were 12 dogs inside. Firefighters aren’t calling it a hoarding situation, but said it was very difficult to corral the dogs because there was so much stuff in the house they had to navigate around with limited visibility from smoke.
"When we show up and you have visibility where you can't see your hand in front of your face, and you top that with animals trying to bite you and furniture all over the place, it makes it really difficult," Fire Rescue Lt. Nick Vihrachoff said.
Firefighters said some of the dogs were in crates, while others were hiding under furniture and boxes. All 12 dogs were rescued thanks to animal control officers and next-door neighbors who jumped in to help firefighters.
The owner has found alternative housing for the dogs.
Red Cross responded to the scene.