Published: 17:22, 22 May 2020
| Updated: 18:48, 22 May 2020
The owner of a pet shop gutted by fire has spoken of his horror at losing animals in the blaze.
Volunteers rushed to the store to save as many animals as possible as six fire crews wearing breathing apparatus spent four hours tackling the blaze.
At the heigh of the inferno, firefighters were giving rescued animals oxygen in an attempt to revive them.
Today stunned staff were trying to come to terms with the carnage.
Mr Smith, 58, said: "I was driving home when I got a phone call to say the shop was on fire. So I got back as quick as I could. My staff were already there and the fire crew were inside. We managed to tell them where the animals were.
"We lost a few but we saved more than we lost. The loss of any animal is hard enough but I guess the worst was Toby the African Grey parrot I had owned for 20 years. She even survived the fire I had in another shop. That's the biggest loss - but any animal is a loss."
Staff and volunteers managed to save a wide variety of animals including tortoises, rats, bunnies, guinea pigs and the shop's two cats. An escaped ferret is believed to still be in the building.
Mr Smith said: "The firefighters did a fantastic job. They even gave oxygen to the fish. And the public have just been great. The Sheerness community came together. It was fantastic to see.
"People were donating money which I gave to Lorraine St John from the Kent Wildlife Rescue Service who were helping and are looking after the animals we saved."
He said inside the building had been devastated.
Fighting back tears, he added: "It is upsetting for me and my staff. It is horrible seeing everything we have built up taken away. It was a nice business with nice customers."
But he vowed: "I'm going to rebuild it.
"Once we are ready we will let anybody who wants to help come down and help with the clean-up. This is us. This is Sheerness."
A number of appeals have already been launched including one by Natasha Connor.
And Christina Bull has offered to hold a raffle. Rumour cafe in Sheerness says it will donate vouchers and psychic Charlotte Clark is giving a free half-hour phone reading worth £30.
Fire inspectors have not released the cause of the blaze but it is thought to have started in a faulty electrical appliance.
More by this authorJohn Nurden