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Pets die in blaze that leaves 3 homeless

DULUTH - Firefighters grappled with sub-freezing temps Monday morning to quench a burning townhome in Duluth, but not before the blaze claimed two household pets and displaced three renters, officials said.

Firefighters slipped and slid down the steep, icy driveway of the Regency Park Drive home, located off Pleasant Hill Road near Buford Highway. No human injuries were reported.

"Water's freezing on the ground as we fight the fire," Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge said at the scene. Firefighters rendered the 9:51 a.m. blaze under control in about 25 minutes, despite the inclement weather, he said.

The fire, reported by a passerby at a nearby animal clinic, originated on the ground level of the building's corner unit, then licked up the outside siding. Rutledge said the fire caused extensive damage to the unit's main level, but no damage was found in two adjoining homes.

The exact cause is under investigation, though "it's not suspicious or anything," Rutledge said.

A Chihuahua and a cat belonging to the home's occupants did not survive.

A resident of the townhome, Charles Webb, stood with his roommates at a nearby corner, surveying the damage and formulating a plan. All three are co-workers at a nearby business, he said.

"Our friends are going to help us out, put us up and get us through this," Webb said.