Fire in downtown Mendota, IL rips through pet shop, killing hundreds of animals

Mendota, Illinois located about 90 miles southwest of Chicago in LaSalle County

Evelyn Holmes Image
Friday, December 30, 2022
Fire rips through Mendota pet shop, killing hundreds of animals
A Mendota, IL fire ripped through the Fin Fur Feather pet shop on Illinois Ave, leaving hundreds of animals dead.

MENDOTA, Ill. (WLS) -- Hundreds of animals died when a fire in Mendota, Illinois ripped through several storefronts and a pet shop in the city's downtown area Friday morning, Mendota fire officials said.

The fire started in an upstairs apartment in the 700-block of Illinois Avenue and spread to several properties on the block, officials said.

Authorities say the apartments above the businesses were also destroyed. No residents were hurt.

Several vacant storefronts were damaged, and a pet shop on the block was most affected. It was a total loss, fire officials said.

Jennifer Sibley and Chandra Cearns are clinging to hope only hours after fire raced through their Fin Fur Feather Pet Shop, killing hundreds of their animals.

"We couldn't save everything, but we saved what we could," Sibley said.

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The women were planning on opening a new pet store after recently combining the shops they had owned individually. The store planned to sell rabbits, fish, guinea pigs, birds, and reptiles, along with animal feed.

"We weren't the normal pet shop," Cearns said. "You walked in, it was the hometown pet shop where you got to sit and talk."

The flames erupted late Thursday night in the 700-block of Illinois Avenue in the downtown district of the town of roughly 7,000 residents. Mendota is about 90 miles southwest of Chicago, in LaSalle County.

"I had a friend call me," Sibley said. "I was getting ready for bed and he says the shop was on fire... I grabbed my coat, ran out barefoot, got in my truck. I live four blocks from here and it was already full of smoke and up in flames."

Firefighters from several neighboring areas battled the flames into Friday morning. Crews even demolished a vacant city-owned building to stop the fire's spread.

While a few animals were saved, the shop's bird mascots Lucy and Mango along with a tortoise named Lil' Foot were among the many pets lost.

"To lose stuff like this is just devastating," said Andora Cearns, the daughter of one of the shop's owners. "It's all of your hard work gone. It's your family members, they're family to us. Animals are our livelihood."

City officials said this was the second recent fire in the downtown area. Last August, a fire destroyed several storefronts.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Meanwhile, the pet shop owners are vowing to rebuild.

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