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4 people hospitalized trying to rescue cats in Oro-Medonte, Ont. shelter fire

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Several people have been hospitalized with smoke inhalation after rushing into a burning building to save multiple animals at a cat shelter on Shanty Bay Road in Oro-Medonte, Ont.

Officials say a garbage truck caught on fire late Friday morning, spreading to a nearby dumpster and then the building that houses the cat shelter.

"There were several explosions before you knew it the garbage bin was on fire, then the building was on fire, then the glass was being blown out," said Carol Snow, director at Street Cats Rescue.

A dump truck on fire in Oro-Medonte, Ont., on Fri., May 26, 2023. (Courtesy: Michael Chorney/At The Scene Photography)

Several people rushed to help pull the cats from the burning building.

"Two ladies ran in. I followed them to make sure they were okay. We started a line and just started getting cats in cages out of the building," said Michael Chorney.

"There was so much smoke at that point you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," Snow added.

"We got as many cats out as we could, then the panic really set in, not being able to get the cats because the smoke was thickening. It was getting dark in there. It was hard to see, hard to breathe," Chorney said.

Four people, including Chorney and Snow, suffered smoke inhalation.

Officials say 30 of the 56 cats were accounted for, and seven of those have been taken to be treated for smoke inhalation.

The fire has since been extinguished while crews work to douse hot spots.

Firefighters battle a fire on Shanty Bay Road in Oro-Medonte, Ont., on Fri., May 26, 2023. (Courtesy: Linda Campbell)

The building isn't a total loss, the fire chief said. However, it sustained significant damage.

Neighbours have stepped in to offer shelter to some of the now-displaced cats while staff at the shelter figure out their next steps.

"Financially, we're going to be in trouble," Snow said. "Everything in the shelter is going to be smoke damaged. I don't know what the veterinary care is going to be at this point. These cats were in this thick, black smoke. I don't know what the long-term effects of that are going to be."

By late Friday afternoon, the shelter confirmed all the cats had been found.

Anyone interested in donating to help the shelter can reach out to Street Cats Rescue.

With files from CTV's Catalina Gillies

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