Firefighters found one badly burned cat and about 30 other felines that were either dead before the fire was set or perished in the blistering blaze, authorities said Thursday.
Long Beach Fire Department crews were dispatched to the 1400 block of Cherry Avenue at about 12:30 p.m. for a structure fire and found the multi-garage building completely engulfed in flames, said Rex Pritchard, vice president of the Long Beach Firefighters Association.
Engine 10 was first on scene and the four crew members immediately began an aggressive attack on the massive fire — which was producing temperatures so hot there was a serious threat of the blaze rapidly spreading to nearby homes, Pritchard said.
During that fire fight one crew members was burned, said Pritchard.
"To give you an idea of how hot this fire was, the firefighter who was burned was standing about 25 feet from the flames," Pritchard said. "He was burned by the radiant heat.
Firefighters were horrified when they opened one of the garages and a badly burned cat crawled out, Pritchard added.
"Firefighters are sometimes jaded by what they see but the guys said this horrible," he said.
Long Beach Animal Control was called out to investigate.
The one injured cat was rushed to a veterinary hospital, but its injuries were so severe it was decided to humanely euthanize the cat to avoid further suffering, according to Animal Control.
Animal control officers found the other 30 cats were either deceased prior to the fire or died because of the blaze.
The owner of the structure told investigators they run an animal rescue operation.
There appeared to be no prior violations of abuse, but the necropsies scheduled for the cats Thursday afternoon would be used to determine if animal cruelty or neglect had taken place, according to Animal Control Bureau Manager John Keisler.
Results from the necropsies were expected to be available Friday, authorities said.
Investigations into the cats' deaths and the cause of the fire remain on-going.