Published: 18:58, 21 May 2020
| Updated: 21:29, 21 May 2020
Several animals have died after a fire at a pet shop engulfed the business with thick black smoke.
Firefighters have been tackling a blaze at Cuddles n Bubbles in Sheerness for four hours this evening. Sadly, dozens of animals were not able to be saved.
Fire crews were called to Broadway shortly after 5pm after witnesses saw thick black smoke behind the windows and coming out of the building.
Six fire engines were sent to fight back the flames and have been working to bring the fire under control.
Lorraine St John, from the Kent Wildlife Rescue Service which is based in the town, confirmed there had been many casualties but it was not known exactly how many animals have died.
She said the team of seven had recovered many different animals from the shop including tortoises, guinea pigs, rabbits, budgies, rats and a blue-tongued skink.
"It's all being controlled by the fire service at the moment. We've managed to get out some animals that were alive.
"We think we've lost all the small birds, like the finches."
Many of the animals died as a result of smoke inhalation, Ms St John said.
She added oxygen treatment had been given to the rescued animals who had "perked up" since being looked after.
They will be cared for overnight before being taken back to the Kent Wildlife Rescue Service to continue recovering.
"It's incredibly sad," Ms St John added. "But we've seen worse than this.
"A fire is a sad case but it's not a case of neglect or anything like that."
Residents living in flats above the shop had to be evacuated and firefighters used fans to clear the building of smoke.
The fire service said the cause of the blaze is not yet known.
Jamie Norris, who was driving past when he spotted the smoke, called the fire service.
"There was thick black smoke behind the windows," he said. "That was around 5.05pm.
"It was hard to see as the smoke was extremely thick. The smoke was also coming from the top of the shop, between the flat above.
"The side alley vents also had plenty of smoke coming through them.
"I hope the animals are all ok. The fire brigade acted extremely quickly to be fair."
The business describes itself as an "aquatic pet store" which also sells pet supplies.
A fire service spokesman said: "Kent Fire and Rescue Service was called at 5.07pm to reports of a fire at a pet shop in Broadway, Sheerness.
"Six fire engines are in attendance and crews wearing breathing apparatus are working to extinguish the blaze using hose reel jets and a smoke curtain.
"The upper floors, which are used as residential dwellings, were cleared of smoke using high pressured fans.
"While crews were able to save some of the animals, sadly there was some loss of life.
"No other casualties were reported."
Fire crews left the scene shortly before 9.10pm.