Three families and more than a dozen dogs were forced from their homes Thursday evening by a fire that gutted one townhouse and damaged two others in Middletown's Lone Manor neighborhood.
The fire began in the kitchen of a townhouse at 68 E. Cole Blvd. about 5:50p.m., and quickly spread up to the second floor at rear of the home, according to Frank Bailey, the fire chief of Volunteer Hose Company of Middletown.
Two of the townhouses' four residents were home at the time and managed to escape the blaze, although an adult woman was reportedly taken to Christiana Hospital. Information about her injuries and medical condition were not available as of Friday afternoon.
Two adults who live at 66 S. Cole Blvd. also were evacuated, while an adult and two children who live at 70 S. Cole Blvd. were not home at the time.
Bailey said both of those homes suffered heat and smoke damage that rendered them uninhabitable.
Firefighters also rescued two adult dogs and 11 mixed breed puppies from the rear of 68 E. Cole Blvd.
Several of the approximately 75 firefighters who responded to the blaze had to be treated for exhaustion as a result of Thursday's extreme heat, including one volunteer who was treated and released at Christiana Hospital.
"It definitely takes its toll," Bailey said of the summer heat, which remained in the mid-90s Thursday evening. "We try to be more aggressive with giving lots of breaks and checking vitals, but it can really tire you out quickly."
Two of the three families displaced by the fire are receiving assistance from the American Red Cross of the Delmarva Peninsula, according to a spokeswoman for the disaster relief agency.
Bailey said a neighbor agreed to take all but two of the dogs displaced by the fire.
"The other two each went home with firefighter," he said. "They dogs were kept in the air conditioning of our ladder truck while we worked on the fire, and I couple of the guys each decided to adopt one on the spot."
Five fire departments responded to Thursday's blaze, including Middletown, Odessa, Townsend, Port Penn and Galena, Md.
Firefighters remained on the scene until about 9 p.m., Bailey said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.