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Pet Hedgehog Killed in Fire, Residents Laugh Off Wolverine Reports

By DNAinfo Staff on December 21, 2010 10:10am  | Updated on December 22, 2010 6:14am

By Patrick Hedlund and Olivia Scheck

DNAinfo Reporter/Producers

MANHATTAN — Dozens of residents were displaced and two exotic pets killed during an overnight fire in Chinatown Tuesday, the FDNY and residents said.

The animals' owner said her pet hedgehog and rabbit died in the blaze, which began in a second-floor insurance agency at 29 East Broadway about 3 a.m., the FDNY said.

An earlier report by the the Daily News, which was picked up by DNAinfo, claimed that one of the animals was a wolverine, drawing chuckles from residents and the pet's owner at the scene.

Holly, 26, who declined to provide her last name, had been living in the building for a year before the fire.

She explained that her two-year-old hedgehog Lillith, and three-year-old rabbit, Velma, were kept in cages inside her apartment and couldn't be brought out during the fast-moving blaze.

Three people sustained minor injuries and two exotic pets died in a Chinatown fire early Tuesday morning.
Three people sustained minor injuries and two exotic pets died in a Chinatown fire early Tuesday morning.
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DNAinfo/Jim Scott

"It sucks," Holly said.

She said the pet hedgehog was "playful," adding that she sometimes let it roam free in her apartment.

Holly did manage to save her two pet cats from the fire, and said she would eventually recover from the loss of Lillith and Velma.

"I'll be OK," she said.

Wolverines and hedgehogs are both illegal to keep as pets [PDF] under the New York City Heath Code.

The building owner, who asked to be identified by her first name Kelly, said no pets are allowed in the building.

Kelly said the fire marshal escorted Holly upstairs after the blaze to look for the pets, because she thought the rabbit could have been hiding in a safe place, but they ultimately could not find them.

The fire spread to the third, fourth and fifth floors of the five-story building through a shaft, and at 3:29 a.m. firefighters on the scene were forced to call for backup, the FDNY said.

"I heard somebody say, 'Fire, fire!'" said fifth-floor tenant Joo May, 63, who lives in the building with her cousin, adding she hustled to the roof with other residents to avoid the growing smoke and flames.

"Very scary," she added. "Everyone run, run."

May and others were eventually brought down from the roof using a ladder.

A total of 106 firefighters responded to the blaze, which was brought under control at 4:47 a.m., almost two hours after the call came in, fire officials said.

Four people suffered minor injuries from the fire and were transported to Beekman Hospital in stable condition, the FDNY said.

A Red Cross spokeswoman said all the tenants had found places to stay with friends or family, and that the agency did not need to provide anyone with shelter.

Tenants returned to the building on Tuesday afternoon and were allowed inside to gather some belongings.

"It's pretty gutted up there," said a police officer at the scene who had been inside the building. "It's trashed."

The owner, Kelly, added that the entire roof had been burned off.

There are 12 apartments in the Chinatown walk-up, housing at least 24 people, Kelly said.

"The most important thing is no one got hurt," she said, noting that the inured residents were brought to the hospital as a precaution.

The cause of the blaze is currently under investigation, the FDNY said, though Kelly said she believed it was electrical.