Dog rescue owner says deadly fire could've been much worse

Dozens of dogs on road to recovery after massive kennel fire

YORK COUNTY, S.C. — Gina Chapman is trying not to think about what's lost. She wants to look ahead.

"We hope to be up and running again in a month," Chapman said, walking across the rolling hills of her property surrounded by horses and pastures outside of York. She moved there in 2012 to expand her dachshund rescue.  She and her husband converted a barn into a homey place for her passion.

"This is my life," she said.

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There were about 50 dogs in the building Thursday night when a fast-moving fire burned it down.

"My husband heard an explosion, saw smoke and was calling me, saying, ‘Call 911!’" she said. The couple and their 19-year-old son tried to reach the dogs any way they could.

"We started opening doors, grabbing dogs out of yards, putting them wherever.  We put them in cars, put them in crates, put them in our camper -- anywhere," she said.

At first, they thought five dogs had died but they found three more dead on Saturday.   There were 49 dogs saved. Most of them have gone to local vets and other rescues. They will recover from the fire. A few had smoke inhalation and minor burns.

Firefighters and police officers were carrying out frightened dogs that night. After a friend posted a dramatic picture of the fire on Facebook, more help quickly showed up.

"Luckily, vet clinics from all around started coming.  Animal control came with their trucks, loaded them up and took them to vet clinics for us.," Chapman said.

Since then, people have been dropping off donations including dog food, blankets, towels and supplies.

Chapman told Channel 9 she could have lost all the dogs in the fire. She was in the house when it started and if her husband hadn't come home and seen it, it would have been much longer before anyone noticed.

Chapman's dachshund rescue takes in about 500 unwanted dogs a year. Those dogs are saved from being put down at shelters or dying from illness.

"I may have lost eight, but I've saved thousands," Chapman said. "I have to look at it that way."

She had insurance on the building but because it was an old barn, it wasn't worth much money.

The York County fire marshal determined the fire was an accident but has not determined a cause.

Chapman thanked Ebenezer Animal Hospital, Long Veterinarian Clinic, Clover Veterinarian Clinic, York County Animal Control and all the fire departments and police agencies that responded quickly, and stayed late, helping her and her dogs.

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