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Burned: Veterinary practices up in flames
Three practitioners face lost homes and lives in wake of February fires


Fast and furious

Kitty Barnett, DVM, had just gotten out of a bath at her Fulton, Mo., home on Feb. 19 and was getting ready for bed when she noticed her dogs staring at her like something was going on.

Then, she and her son, Travis, both heard a loud pop. When they ran out to the living room, it was already on fire.

"I grabbed a fire extinguisher and my son grabbed a 5-gallon container of water," she recalls. "But we had to get the heck out of there. We called 911."

Barnett believes the fire was electrical because of the popping sound and because of how quickly it spread. Fire officials will not be able to determine a cause due to the extensive damage, she says. The fire department had to return to the home the next day because it was still burning.

Barnett and her son broke a window and rescued one cat, but two others died in the fire.

"I didn't even have socks and shoes," Barnett says of how quickly everything happened.

After the fire she was able to recover her fireproof safe, which had negatives of her children when they were little, as well as a couple of boxes that also contained photos, but everything else was destroyed.

For now, she's staying in a hotel down the road from the Callaway Veterinary Clinic, where she works with her ex-husband. She just found a duplex where she plans to move temporarily and she may build a log cabin later on.

"It's kind of odd going to (the store) and realizing, I don't have this, and I don't have that," she says. "Oh well. It's just stuff."

Barnett is just glad she and her son escaped unharmed.

"I never thought I would have a fire," she says. "If I did I certainly would have thought I had more time to get out."

Arsonist attack

Charles Knowles, DVM, was hundreds of miles away completing continuing education when he learned that fire was destroying the Knowles Animal Hospital in Logan, W.V., where he has been the sole practitioner since 1990.

Fire was shooting out of the top of the building, and there was nothing Knowles could do.

What was possibly even more disturbing was that fire officials believe the Feb. 5 blaze was intentionally set. Local authorities reported one home and two other commercial buildings were burned within 30 days of the fire at Knowles, and law enforcement agencies were teaming up to identify a suspect as of press time.

"The top floor was very much destroyed," Knowles says. Luckily, the first floor, where five rescue animals were housed, was not. The animals have since been adopted.

While it initially seemed possible to re-open right away because the bottom floor was largely untouched by the fire, water damage from efforts to extinguish the blaze made that impossible.

"Everything needs to come out," he says.

Knowles is in the process of setting up a temporary hospital at another location, but it will depend on cost. He is still working on rebuilding the animal hospital.

"With three kids in college, I wasn't really ready to quit," he says. "And I'm not going to quit. I'm not going to build it as nice as it was. But I will probably build a garage in the back with an apartment on top and use the garage as storage and to work on old cars."

The upstairs of the destroyed building was used as storage for extra medical equipment not in use, lawn equipment, personal possessions, and old medical records.

Knowles lost five bicycles, two motorcycles, a brand new mountain bike, a parachute, camping gear, and an extensive collection of books on aviation.

"I was always prepared to be robbed," Knowles says. "I wasn't prepared for this. It takes a special type of person that would try to kill animals. It's hard to believe."


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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