CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) - Investigators say a tenant that used heat lamps to keep his snakes warm will not face charges in connection with a storage center fire.
Investigators ruled the cause of the Dec. 22 fire as undetermined, which is part of the reason the tenant won't be held responsible. Fire officials say they can not say with certainty if heat lamps or electrical cords sparked the blaze.
Investigators do not believe the tenant intended to start the fire, therefore they have no reason to pursue any charges.
It's a tough ruling for renters who lost so much in the fire Dec. 22 in Chesapeake.
"32 units and a lot of lives were destroyed," renter at Brentwood Self Storage Shelly Peabody said. "It wasn't just 32 people. It was husbands, wives and other family members."
When the smoke cleared in the hours following the fire, many realized they lost things no amount of money or insurance could bring back.
"Some of it was sentimental things from my childhood and my grandma's childhood," Peabody said. "Grandma is no longer here. Certainly the things that can not be replaced is the stuff that hits the hardest."
Investigators initially believed heat lamps used by one tenant to keep his snakes warm could be to blame for the fires. A manager of the facility told WAVY.com keeping animals in the facility is a violation of the renter lease.
"I think he should be held accountable," Peabody said. "It was his negligence. He violated the lease which clearly states, 'No pets.'"
Despite the fire, Peabody plans to stay with the storage company.
"I spoke to them every day," Peabody said. "They kept me updated every day. They hired security to watch over the units for 24 hours. They put tarps over our stuff. It's the small things that go a long way."
Fire investigators say animal control officers spoke with the snake owner and are not pursuing any legal action as the snakes were not neglected or abused.
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