Over 2,000 exotic snakes perish in warehouse fire

DENVER Tue Sep 27, 2011 7:04pm EDT

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DENVER (Reuters) - Fire investigators sifted through a charred warehouse to find the cause of a blaze that killed more than 2,000 exotic snakes at a reptile business owned by former professional football player Chad Brown.

Jim Hofstra, a division chief with the Littleton, Colorado, fire department, told Reuters that the probe will take a few days to complete, but the preliminary investigation has turned up no evidence pointing to arson.

"There were no accelerants present, so there doesn't seem to be any reason to suspect it was anything but accidental," Hofstra said.

Hofstra said the blaze erupted on Monday in the Pro Exotics Reptiles warehouse south of Denver.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 nonvenomous snakes perished in the fire, he said, though a handful of snakes survived the flames, and some incubators containing snake eggs may be salvageable.

No humans were injured, but the building sustained extensive damage to its roof, electrical system and natural gas lines, Hofstra said.

Pro Exotics breeds and sells reptiles to collectors and others, but is not a retail outlet, according to the company's website.

The business is co-owned by Brown, a 15-year National Football League veteran who retired from the game in 2007.

Brown, 41, could not be reached for comment, but a posting on the company website said its entire inventory was "wiped out" by the fire.

"We have no snakes for sale at this time, sorry," the posting said.

A police officer initially responded to an intruder alarm that fire officials said was likely triggered by the flames short-circuiting the building's electrical system.

When firefighters arrived at the building, they were initially taken aback by its slithering occupants, Hofstra said.

"The heavy smoke, confusing layout, and presence of snakes on the floor led responders to pull out and begin defensive fire-suppression tactics," he said.

The blaze was brought under control within four hours.

Brown was selected to the Pro Bowl three times during his career, which included stints with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, according to his profile on NFL.com.

His interest in herpetology dates back to the early 1990s, when he was a student at the University of Colorado.

(Editing by Steve Gorman and Greg McCune)

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