Virginia Self-Storage Fire Caused by Tenant Trying to Keep Snakes Warm

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A fire at a self-storage facility in Chesapeake, Va., that destroyed 32 units Dec. 22 was likely started by a tenant using heat lamps to warm snakes he was storing in his unit.

Capt. Scott Saunders of the Chesapeake Fire Department told the source that a unit at Brentwood Self Storage contained aquariums connected by an extension cord to power the heat lamps. The aquariums, which were also covered in towels, contained six snakes, all of which were killed in the blaze.

Catherine Swetname, the facility’s co-owner, told the source the tenant had “rigged” some electricity to add the heat lamps. It may have been done by replacing the unit’s light bulb with an outlet, and then plugging in an extension cord to power the heat lamps. The socket, according to Swetname, isn’t designed to handle anything more than a 100-watt bulb. Adding electricity and using the heat lamps are direct violations of the facility’s rental agreement, she said. Investigators have yet to determine how the fire originated.

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