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Owner of Pet Store Loses Exotic Birds in North Hills Blaze


Friends and family members tried to comfort Zoe Zimmerman on Tuesday, but she could not stop crying. The pain of losing several friends was too great.

Zimmerman's friends--30 birds, many of them exotic--perished early Tuesday when fire swept through her pet store in a North Hills mini-mall.

The fire was reported at 12:03 a.m. and was controlled within 30 minutes, Los Angeles city fire officials said.

The blaze also heavily damaged a flower shop, a video store and a car accessories store.

"I've always thought Christmas was supposed to be a season of happiness and new birth," Zimmerman, 30, said quietly. "But I feel now that my life has ended. I would have rather lost all of my merchandise than any of my birds. I loved them."

All the other animals survived, including a rabbit, hamsters and fish. But that was little consolation to Zimmerman as she stood Tuesday afternoon amid the ruins of the small "4 Byrds Only" store she opened two years ago in the Freeway Plaza center in the 15600 block of Nordhoff Street.

The birds, which included cockatiels, mini-macaws, Rosella parrots and blue-front Amazon parrots, were worth a total of $5,000, Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman, who is also a breeder, had raised many of them since they were two weeks old.

Instead of keeping them in cages, she let them roam the store: "They were always loose. They would walk on the counter, on the floor, on heads. Folks really had to watch where they walked."

She especially liked their distinctive personalities.

Rosie, a Rosella parrot, was very independent. Chester, a mini-macaw, loved to talk. Skeeter, a blue-front Amazon who was crippled with flat feet, had a somewhat friendly disposition despite his habit of biting.

Many of the birds were worth about $60, but Zimmerman said some mini-macaws and cockatiels were priced at as much as $800.

Zimmerman last saw the birds Monday when she stopped by the store about 10:30 p.m. to check on them. "Everything seemed all right then," she recalled.

Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire or where it began, officials said.

The stores and contents sustained an estimated $600,000 damage.

Zimmerman and several friends spent much of Tuesday carrying out charred cages and perches, placing them in the parking lot in front of the store.

Several hamsters, nestled in the corner of a glass cage, slept while the work progressed.

One friend who attempted to console Zimmerman was Jim Nokes, 48, of North Hills, who came to the store Tuesday to pick up Skeeter, whom he had purchased earlier.

"I feel like I've lost a friend --even if he did bite," Nokes said. "This puts a real bad light on Christmas."

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