At about 12.30am on Tuesday Karen Gregory, owner of Cholewell Pets, called the fire service, and fire crews discovered four barns, four vehicles and a caravan on fire when they arrived at the farm. Three firefighter teams battled the fire for almost 3 hours until it was eventually put out. Friends of the family that own the farm say that they managed to save some animals before the fire overwhelmed them and they escaped, fearing for their own lives.
The fire is thought to have started in a domestic fridge, which spread to a vacant barn where it took hold and engulfed the neighboring barn housing the guinea-pigs. However, police say that the fire service called them to the scene to investigate a suspected arson attack.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said: "The premises trade as a center for breeding domestic pets and contained over 1,000 domestic pets including rabbits, rats and mostly guinea pigs. Several fire appliances attended the fire. Unfortunately the fire service were unable to extinguish the fire resulting in all the animals being lost. At this time police and fire investigators are continuing to make enquiries to establish the cause of the fire and at this stage are unable to say whether this was deliberate or not."