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House fire believed to have killed 13 cats, two turtles in Orem

Posted at 6:58 PM, Aug 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-01 20:58:58-04

OREM, Utah -- Crews with the Orem Fire Department said they believe 13 cats and two turtles have died in a house fire near 1700 South and 300 East.

The lone woman who lived inside was able to make it out unscathed.

Firefighters said they were on scene for about three hours and had to use chainsaws to gain access to the burning home because it was so cluttered inside.

"You name it. Books. Magazines. All kinds of stuff that most of us would have discarded a long time ago," said Battalion Chief Gary Rawlings. "Quite a loss for this family."

"It was difficult to access inside, they had trouble forcing entry into the building," said Deputy Fire Chief Jason Earl. "The amount of content inside the structure made it difficult to get in."

Crews said most of the woman's animals are still missing, but are presumed dead underneath the clutter still inside the now-condemned home.

"The cats have not been located. They were able to find three turtles. One of them survived. The other two did not," Rawlings said. "My guess is the cats are passed away as well."

Firefighters recommended people declutter their homes so that crews have a better chance to save what they can in the case of an emergency.

Members of the victim's family said they were too emotional to talk about the incident.

Aside from the clutter inside the house, firefighters were also faced with the challenge of battling hot temperatures.

Two firefighters were treated for heat exhaustion.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Rawlings said investigators believe it may have been an electrical fire.

The house is now considered legally uninhabitable because of the damage.