Fire Destroys 54 Pups Chester County Firefighter Rescues Kennel's Lone Rottweiler Survivor

Posted: February 22, 2001

Flames licked around the big Rottweiler and burning debris fell on and around him as he huddled, terrified, on the cement floor of his pen in a rural Chester County dog kennel.

As volunteer firemen hosed down pockets of flames in the rubble of a devastating fire yesterday at Kimbertal Kennels that killed 55 Rottweilers, all but one of them puppies, a firefighter pulled open the pen door and discovered the shaking animal.

"The guy started yelling, 'Here's one still alive!'" said Anne Grim, a kennel employee. "The flames were all around him."

Volunteer fireman Darin Groff said he saw the 11-month- old Rottweiler, named Rex, huddled in a corner of the pen and grabbed him.

He hosed off the frightened, ash-covered 150-pound dog, and coaxed him to safety.

"I just happened to catch movement in there and saw him laying back in there," Groff said.

There was "fire over top of his head, stuff was falling on top of him and [I] just shoved him on out the door there."

Rex was rushed to the Ludwig's Corner Veterinary Hospital nearby, where a veterinarian said late yesterday the dog had blisters on the inside of one of his ears from burns but appeared otherwise to be doing well.

"His lungs appeared good on an X-ray," said Dr. Peter Levin, but there was always the danger of infection and the dog was receiving antibiotics intravenously. "Basically, I think he got lucky," said Levin.

Grim said Rex had been renamed "Chance, as in "Second Chance."

Kimbertal is a nationally known breeder that has sold Rottweilers to baseball players Curt Schilling and Danny Jackson. The kennel, in business for 37 years, also breeds Doberman Pinschers.

Kennel workers and kennel owner Bob Yarnall were devastated by the deaths of the dozens of pups, including several litters that had just come in last week and were awaiting their shots before being sold, Grim said.

They ranged in age from 8 weeks to the 11-month-old, Rex, Grim said.

"Luckily, none of our studs were up at the puppy kennel," she said.

Four or five of the pups lay dead in one pen, apparently from smoke inhalation, one observer said.

But Kimberton Fire Chief Chuck Fields said few bodies of the animals were found. "They may have died of smoke, but eventually the bodies burned up," he said. "This fire had a major head start."

Fields said no cause had been determined by late yesterday. The fire was not suspicious, he said.

Firefighters had to pump water to douse the flames from nearby French Creek.

There were no sprinklers in the 50-by-150-foot kennel, a 30-year-old wooden structure covered with aluminum, Grim said. She said there had been an alarm system but she was not sure if it was working.

Yarnall said he was in his house when his wife saw smoke coming from the kennel building at about 11:30 a.m. "I ran out. Within three minutes, the flames were coming out the side."

The kennel had no insurance on the animals, fire officials said. Yarnall said they are worth between $600 and $2,000 apiece.

Kimbertal also runs the local animal-control and humane society, Grim said.

Kimbertal had been the center of some controversy in past years involving allegations of genetic and training problems.

"But even people who have had consumer complaints have said the place was well kept," said Dotsie Keith, lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Federation of Dog Clubs. *

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Send e-mail to campisg@phillynews.com

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