FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --As firefighters rushed to put out a house fire on Grant Avenue in central Fresno, they realized they needed the SPCA to help treat and account for everyone who lived there.
"The people who were inside they had all said they were doing fine, initially," Bob Van Tassel with the Fresno Fire Department said. "The fire initiated in the back bedroom. We don't have a cause yet we're still waiting for investigators to come up with a cause."
Family members say the 70-year-old woman had only lived there for two years. She moved there shortly after her husband passed away. Her granddaughter says she moved in with just four dogs but no one had been inside the house since then and didn't realize just how many dogs she had living with her.
"I would say out of hand for her. A lot of people are going to look at her as a hoarder of animals but, for her, it was just a way of having comfort and being at peace with the one you love passing away," Aubree Ramirez said.
Ramirez said most of the dogs were not fixed and may have multiplied with each other. She believes there were about 40 dogs in all and not all of them survived the fire.
"I would say most likely 10 passed away in the house and a couple of puppies, one of the dogs was giving birth while the fire was going on. We have like two to three of the puppies inside now a couple died and she's still having them as we speak inside," Ramirez explained.
None of the dogs appeared unhealthy. Firefighters said they had a breathing mask to help some of the dogs who suffered smoke inhalation.
"It's a mask, more narrow, it's the same kind of a face mask you'd put on a person but it's kind of narrower and I believe they were using one on one of the dogs they brought earlier in the incident," Van Tassel said.
Though the house appears undamaged from the outside, family members said the inside is completely destroyed. The woman believes the fire may have started in the laundry room based on the volley of flames coming from that area.
Family members say the SPCA has taken all but two of the dogs from the home.