LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Firefighters in Littleton were called in on Monday morning to battle a fire at a commercial building that claimed the lives of thousands of animals in an exotic pet store.

The fire started at about 6 a.m. at Pro Exotics Reptiles pet store located at 3911 Norwood Drive. It’s one of the largest exotic pet stores in the nation.

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A burglar alarm alerted authorities that there was a fire. The alarm likely went off as a result of windows shattering from the intense heat of the fire.

Pro Exotics Reptiles breeds and sells exotic reptiles from all over the world. It was leasing the two units as they worked to build a facility of their own. One of the owners is former University of Colorado and NFL linebacker Chad Brown, whose love of snakes began while he was in college.

“Each spring I’d produce my babies and sell them to local pet stores in Boulder,” Brown said. “That was kind of the start of this business. Once I left school and had some money in my pocket I built what I’ve got here — Pro Exotics Reptiles.”

Until the fire was completely out and the building safe enough to sift through the ashes, the wait was agonizing for the owners who were wondering if any of their animals were alive. No humans were injured in the fire, but thousands of exotic reptiles died — mainly non-venomous snakes.

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The owners said they believe they lost nearly 2,000 animals. Two firefighters found one survivor — a female python — one of the largest used for breeding. She somehow escaped a glass enclosure that was scorched. Throughout the day firefighters were able to only find about nine more snakes.

(credit: CBS)

Although it will take days to go through the burned units, some snake eggs were the only other things that were salvaged.

The business has insurance but it’s not clear what it’ll cover.
“We are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars in animals lost,” co-owner Robyn Markland said.

Brown played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he made the Pro Bowl. He also played for the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.

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Arson is not suspected in the fire.