Only a small percentage of the hundreds of animals at Aqua-Rama Pet Center in Fayetteville survived a fire Sunday night, the owner’s granddaughter said.
All that remains of the family-owned pet store that’s called Fayetteville home for the past half-century are three snakes, a rabbit, a few turtles, some freshwater fish and a scarlet macaw that’s struggling to survive after a large fire ripped through the store Sunday evening.
Shayanne Orme, whose grandfather, Joe Spano, has owned the store at 4937 Bragg Blvd. for more than 40 years, said that’s only around 3% of the hundreds of animals that were in the store. Most died in the fire.
Earlier coverage:Fire reported at Aqua-Rama Pet Center on Sunday night
Spano, Orme and the rest of their extended family rushed to the store Sunday night after hearing that the shop where so many of them had worked was ablaze. The first firefighters on the scene saw smoke and fire coming from the roof of the cement structure.
Orme said she got there around 10 p.m., just as her grandfather was about to enter the building for the first time to see what animals could still be rescued.
“That’s what my pop is upset about,” she said. “He’s not upset about the building, he’s upset about all the animals that were in it.”
The surviving fish are now in bags of water in front of the store, waiting for their new home. Spano said he wants to give away all the surviving pets.
“We just want to save as many animals as we can,” he said.
Aqua-Rama first opened in 1971. Five years later, Spano began working at the store part time while serving in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. After leaving the Army, he briefly operated a pet store in Pittsburgh, but stayed in touch with the owners of Aqua-Rama. He soon returned to Fayetteville and bought the business.
Spano said the past owner called him this morning. The store previously had a fire in 1980, Spano said, though not as severe as the blaze Sunday evening.
Spano asked him how to get over such a loss.
“He told me it’s not easy,” he said.
While the store was rebuilt after the 1980 fire, Spano said, this might be the end of the business. He said he might reopen a small location at some point in the future.
A GoFundMe campaign has already raised more than $2,600 as of Tuesday afternoon.
The ceiling near the rear of the building collapsed. Spano said firefighters told him it appears the fire burned the hottest there, but the exact cause remains under investigation.
Just prior to the collapse, firefighters can be heard on scanner traffic recordings discussing rescuing animals.
“We got a lot of pets in here we need to evacuate,” one firefighter says.
“I have personnel coming to you to help with the evacuation of animals,” another responds. “Truck 6, grab additional personnel with you, y’all gonna help and get them animals out of there.”
Jacob Pucci writes on food, restaurants and business. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @jacobpucci or on Facebook. Like talking food? Join our Fayetteville Foodies Facebook group.
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