NEW BEDFORD — Three people were rescued and 34 cats died in a fire this morning on County Street in New Bedford.

The structure fire at 303 County Street was reported at 9:39 a.m., the New Bedford Fire Department said. Crews arrived to find heavy fire on the first floor of the two-family home, with three occupants trapped on the second and third floors.

A male occupant was able to climb out of a third-floor window onto a fire department ladder. Two women in the second-floor apartment were carried down ground ladders, the fire department said.

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The man was transported to Rhode Island Hospital, and the two women were transported to St. Luke’s Hospital. All three are reportedly in their 50s. The New Bedford Fire Department reports all three are currently in stable condition.

The fire was under control in less than an hour, the fire department reports, and the cause is currently under investigation – although the department also said investigators are looking into whether there were working smoke detectors in the residence.

According to the New Bedford Fire Department, a total of 60 cats were removed from the residence – the 34 that perished and 26 that needed to be treated and resuscitated on scene by paramedics, animal control, police and fire personnel.

“The members of these agencies worked seamlessly to provide these animals care in what rapidly evolved into a domesticated animal mass casualty incident,” the New Bedford Fire Department wrote on its Facebook page, noting the cats were transported to multiple veterinary clinics.

The fire department also said that Animal Control Officer Manny Maciel said it was the “largest amount of pets treated and transported from a structure fire.”

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