A fire Wednesday night at the Gordon County Animal Shelter resulted in a total structure loss. While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Gordon County Fire & Rescue Chief Doug Ralston, the fire appears to have started in the attic of the shelter building.

Around 8 p.m. on April 12, Gordon County Fire & Rescue responded to a reported structure fire at the shelter, located at 790 Harris Beamer Road in Calhoun. Dispatch reported that the caller could see flames and smoke in the building. When GCF&R Engine 1 arrived at the scene, the front side of the structure was fully engulfed in flames and the roof over the kennel area in the back of the building had heavy, thick black smoke showing, according to the fire report. Engine 1 took command and called for defensive operations and began rescue operations of the animals that could be rescued from the outside kennels.

According to GCF&R, a total of five fire engines, two tankers and 21 fire personnel responded to the blaze, along with Gordon County EMS.

The total loss of property and contents, according to the fire report, is valued at $250,000.

Gordon County Animal Shelter Director Sue Henson said that there were 20 dogs and two cats at the shelter last night; all of the dogs were rescued but the two cats perished in the blaze. The dogs were placed with City of Calhoun Animal Control and other animal rescue groups.

According to Ralston, the Georgia State Fire Marshal's Office was called to investigate the cause of the fire.

"The Board of Commissioners would like to thank everyone who helped with the fire and rescue at the Animal Shelter tonight," said Commission Chair Becky Hood in an official statement Wednesday night. "Thank you to the City of Calhoun and the various rescue groups for taking in the animals. Thank you to the emergency personnel and thank you to Sue Henson in your quick response in getting the animals out and accounted for. Without her, we would have lost them. Tomorrow, we will start the plans to build a new shelter."

A new animal shelter has been on the list of Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects for the past year, with county officials visiting animal control facilities in Bartow and Catoosa Counties and Chattanooga, Tenn., during the past six months to note practices of reception areas, quarantine facilities and waste management options due to the upcoming design phase of the animal shelter SPLOST project.

"(Gordon County Fire & Rescue) would like to thank all who assisted us last night ensuring as many animals that could be saved were," said GCF&R in an official statement Thursday morning. "We regret we could not save them all, but the cat area being in the main building area away from the dogs, it was not an area accessible by our firefighters on their arrival. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the State Fire Marshall's Office."