THE owners of a fire-ravaged Fulham pet shop have vowed to rebuild their half century-old business and have thanked the community for it's 'humbling' support in the wake of Monday's devastating blaze.
Scores of animals were killed when the fire broke out at The Fish Bowl in Dawes Road in the early hours of the morning, including the shop's beloved cat, Jasper, and its three parrots, one of which had been there 28 years.
Despite losing much of their stock, which included fish, birds, rabbits, lizards, snakes and guinea pigs, and seeing most of the shop damaged by smoke, owners Jenny and Peter Johnson were back trading on Tuesday morning, selling what little goods they had left.
Mrs Johnson, who started the business with her husband 49 years ago, says she has been overwhelmed by the support of the community following the tragedy, and said she owed it to her eight staff and loyal customers to rebuild the shop.
"I feel very humbled by the support," she said. "It's going to be a massive clean-up job but we will do it. We were out here the morning after at the front door, serving people what we could. The Fish Bowl isn't going to go anywhere."
Mrs Johnson said the loss of Jasper and her parrots was particularly hard to take. "It's horrible for everyone. We were Jasper's fourth owners after he just turned up one day. He used to chase dogs out of the shop he didn't like and everyone loved him.
"The only saving grace is there were no human lives lost."
Customers are still reeling from the blaze. Kim Simpson, 20, said: "My nan used to come here, we used to take our dogs here all the time - it's a great community shop, I can't believe it. You can come in and they feed your pets. The parrots have been here years and everyone used to go in and see them."
Howard Adams said the shop was at the heart of the community. "It's amazing, it's a hub," he said. "There's always cars pulling up outside. It's a great shop and run by a great family."
Nearly 60 firefighters battled the flames for more than three hours and evacuated 18 surrounding flats as a precaution. The brigade said the shop had no smoke alarms.
Neighbour Amanda Beddows was woken by the arrival of the emergecny services, who she praised for their quick response. "There was a lot of black smoke billowing from the building. The crews were amazing, like a machine. They were in there for a long time and made sure everyone got out of the flats. They looked after everyone."
The cause of the blaze is under investigation but it is not thought to be suspicious.