Several animals have died in a fire at the wildlife center at John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk.

MADEIRA BEACH, Florida (TodayNews) — Several animals died in a fire at the Alligator and Wildlife Research Center in Jones Pass Village and boardwalk early Thursday morning.

Madeira Beach Fire Chief Clint Belk said crews encountered heavy fire and smoke in front of the building.

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Belk said he did not know how many animals died in the fire, but the building was badly damaged.

“Unfortunately, this seems to be associated with a lot of animal deaths. It’s definitely unfortunate,” Belk said.

Belk said the property was owned by the former mayor of Madeira Beach.

“It affects us a lot. Its owner was the former mayor of Madeira Beach. He was a big supporter of the fire department. It hurts. As a small community, we know these people by name,” Belk says sadly.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown. The state fire marshal and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Arson Unit will investigate the fire.

The Madeira Beach Fire Department will remain on site for a few more hours.

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