FOREST HILL, Md. (WMAR) - The owner escaped from the smoke-filled house tucked in dense woods off Rocks Road in Forest Hill Monday night, but death surrounded firefighters who entered the home and discovered a virtual pet cemetery.
"The firefighters brought out three or four animals that were clearly deceased and then I noticed they were starting to bring more out and then it became clearly evident that we had a number of animals in the home that had perished in the fire," said Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company Chief Edward Hopkins.
Animal control showed up the next morning to investigate and discovered the owner had already buried a dozen cats on the property. Those that died in the fire were far more easy to explain that dozens of additional animal corpses that were discovered in storage.
"Between the fire and the cats that were found in the refrigerators, we have approximately 30-some cats," said Harford County licenses and permits deputy director Richard Truitt."Found inside the refrigerators were kittens, a fox, adult raccoons, baby raccoons, squirrels, birds and turtles."
While the owner told authorities that he and his wife ran a wildlife rescue, the state of the animals and conditions inside the home beg the question of whether they were helping or hurting them.
It's a question at least one neighbor had raised in the past.
"I called because the dogs would be wailing and crying out at all hours of the afternoon and night," said neighbor Tammy Siedlecki. "I did call animal control. Tthey went and checked it out, and they just said there was nothing found at that time and that was about a year ago."
In the aftermath of the fire, it was animal control's turn to rescue what was left of the animals, which are now being held in quarantine until it can be determined whether they have rabies.