'Devastating': 22 dogs, 1 cat die in Toombs Co. kennel fire caused by lightning

A lightning strike destroyed a Toombs County kennel Tuesday night, killing 22 dogs and one cat/Perry Smith (WGXA)

LYONS, Ga. -- A lightning strike destroyed a Toombs County kennel Tuesday night, killing 22 dogs and one cat.

According to Toombs County Fire Chief Johnny Moser, the county was experiencing severe thunderstorms with a lot of lightning.

Chief Moser says they received a call around 7 p.m. about a structure fire at Tiffany's Kennel off Highway 130 in Lyons.

Upon arrival, there was heavy smoke coming from the building, but the fire was contained to the upper level of the structure.

Manager Tiffany Alexander said she came home Tuesday night to seeing her kennel on fire.

"They're all like my babies. So to see them all laying, I mean my heart broke 24 times over," said Alexander.

The homeowner informed the fire department that he attempted to go into the building and save the animals, but the smoke was too heavy. So the owner broke open windows and left doors open, hoping that would help in dispersing the smoke.

The fire department proceeded to rescue the animals, but upon entry, all the animals were found to be deceased. Moser said crews then went upstairs to put out the fire.

Alexander said that all of the pets inside the kennel passed away from smoke inhalation.

"It's devastating. It's devastating for us as well as the owners," she said.

In the aftermath, fire investigators found evidence of a lightning strike, declaring it the cause of the fire.

Terri Johnson has owned the kennel for 39 years and said the pain is unimaginable.

"It was a lightening strike. What do you do? I don't know how to stop lightning," said Johnson.

Johnson said they're just taking time to grieve the losses right now.

"Absolutely heartbroken. Like I said we're absolutely devastated. We don't know what to do, where to go," she said.

The owners are waiting on insurance and inspections to see whether they can rebuild - or if they'll have to start from scratch.

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