30 puppies killed in Miami strip mall fire

02/21/2013 8:16 AM

02/21/2013 7:39 PM

The day after a fire swept through a Miami pet store killing 30 puppies, a dog named Blackey hung around the back door like an apparition.

He stalked around the alley behind the strip mall in the 3200 block of Northwest Seventh Street where, the night before, a fire that started in a bead shop damaged the six stores based there.

Two shops, Fancy Bead and El Bohio Bakery Cafe, were condemned and could remain closed for six months.

Beverly Hills Puppies, which sits in the middle of the strip mall just outside West Little Havana, had smoke damage but no serious structural damage. The shop could reopen in a couple of weeks.

But all 30 English and French bulldog puppies the shop had in its cages died of smoke inhalation.

Owner Martin Leon told Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS4 that he was devastated to know the puppies were trapped in the store, helpless, when the smoke began to pour in.

“It wasn’t the fire that killed them, it was the smoke,” he said. “They could not breathe.”

It’s also a financial loss for Leon. The sale of each dog would’ve fetched more than $2,000. Leon had no insurance on the store.

The fire broke out about 10 p.m. Wednesday night, said Miami Fire-Rescue Lt. Ignatius Carroll.

In the back of Fancy Bead, the easternmost shop in the strip, an overloaded electrical outlet sparked and caught fire. Flames spread into the ceiling and the roof, then to the adjacent shops.

Two doors down from the bead shop, the fire destroyed the kitchen of La America Cantina.

About 40 Miami firefighters worked the smoky blaze for more than an hour.

Eddie Morales, who works in his father’s upholstery shop at the opposite end of the strip from where the fire started, said he remembered puppies in the pet shop about half an hour after smoke was first spotted.

After a struggle with the tightly locked door, firefighters managed to get in and tried to rescue the puppies.

It was too late.

“It’s really unfortunate,” Carroll said. “People can replace or fix other items, but he can’t replace those puppies.”

Morales recalled how well the employees at Beverly Hills Puppies cared for the dogs. The puppies were always clean, as was the shop.

“They took good care of them,” he said.

His father’s shop, Alberto Upholstery, had smoke damage but no structural damage — about $8,000 to $9,000 he said. Among other things, Morales and his father had just finished reupholstering two sofas, which will need to be redone.

All of that can be replaced, Morales said. His father had insurance on the shop. They’ll be fine.

Thursday afternoon, Morales sat on a milk crate in the back alley, exhausted. He’d been up all night, cataloging the damage to give to insurance adjusters in the morning.

Blackey, who belongs to a homeless man who hangs out near the strip mall, curled up at the back door of the pet shop and heaved a great sigh.

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