Fire that killed 7 dogs in SLO was electrical, Cal Fire says

A fire in the boarding area of Thousand Hills Pet Resort in San Luis Obispo resulted in the deaths of seven dogs on Nov. 19.
A fire in the boarding area of Thousand Hills Pet Resort in San Luis Obispo resulted in the deaths of seven dogs on Nov. 19. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The fire that killed seven dogs at the Thousand Hills Pet Resort in rural San Luis Obispo last week was determined to be electrical, according to Cal Fire.

By process of elimination, investigators determined that the fire started in an area near an electrical socket in one of the kennels, said Cal Fire Capt. Zach Nichols, adding that the exact reason may never be determined.

The investigation also found that owner Jack Gould did not have the required permits needed for the electrical work done at the facility.

The permits, issued by the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department, ensure that all electrical work is done according to state and national code, said Steve Hick, supervising plans examiner.

Building permits are not required for the dog kennels because of their small size, about 120 square feet, Hick said. Fire sprinklers are also not required.

Gould said he was not aware at the time that the electrical permit was required, but all the electrical work at the facility was done by a licensed electrician. The fire, which burned unattended for at least an hour, destroyed three small dog kennels clustered about 3 1/2 feet apart. The seven dogs that died were housed in two of those three kennels.

Gould said he had an electrician inspect all the wiring at the facility as a safety precaution immediately after the fire. Staff also removed all heaters from the kennels, he said.

Starting today, heat detectors are being installed in every kennel, which will trigger an alarm in the nearby houses where staff members live on the property. An external alarm will also sound should the temperature rise in any of the kennels, he said.

Gould said that those safety mechanisms were not included when the kennels were built because he didn’t perceive a need for them.

“Everything we have ever used has been an approved device,” Gould said. “We thought we had done what was needed, and now we know we need to go further.”

Customers have gone out of their way to express sympathy with the staff after the tragedy.

People have brought meals, cookies and cards. One family who lost a dog in the fire brought flowers this past weekend in an effort to comfort staff, Gould said.

No customers have been lost, though, he said.

“Everyone who knows us knows it wasn’t our fault,” Gould said. “It was not something we did, it was something that happened, and now we are doing our best to make it the safest place we can.”