CLEARFIELD -- Fires can be deadly and so can snakes, especially gaboon vipers.
North Davis Fire District firefighters responded to smoke coming out of a duplex at 950 E. 1150 South, Clearfield, at 11:07 a.m. Friday. They knocked out the fire in five minutes but found a room filled with snakes, including one gaboon viper, an especially deadly reptile from Africa.
There were about 30 snakes inside the apartment in various aquariums, said Davis Animal Control Officer Jami Stell. None of the snakes were harmed in the fire, which started on the kitchen stove. Officials did not release the name of the owner of the snakes and said there is an ongoing investigation to determine what charges, if any, will be filed. The poisonous snakes were impounded because of the lack of required permits.
Officers said the owner told them he bought the gaboon from an Internet site.
The gaboon viper is extremely dangerous, Stell said. The nearest location with an anti-venom treatment for the gaboon's bite is Florida.
It was the first time the state Department of Wildlife Resources or the animal control services had dealt with that many dangerous snakes in one location.
The owner of the snakes declined to be interviewed.
Of those snakes, six, including the gaboon viper and five rattlesnakes, are illegal to own without a permit because they are venomous, said Wildlife Resources Sgt. David Beveridge.
The others, pythons and boas, were legal. The snakes ranged in size from one foot to 15 feet. "They are the typical snakes you can buy at any pet store," Beveridge said.
James Dix, owner of Reptile Rescue Inc., was called by DWR and animal control officers to assist in removing the viper and five rattlesnakes from the apartment.
Officers waited at the apartment most of the afternoon to get clearance from their supervisors for Dix to remove the venomous snakes.
Dix said the man who owned the snakes is a "professional." He has seen the man at reptile shows. But the man did not have a permit to own any of the venomous snakes, officials said.
The setup for the snakes inside the apartment was good and the public was not at risk, Dix said.
Dix has permits for some of the snakes and is hoping he can use the gaboon viper and possibly the rattlesnakes as part of an education program.
The rattlesnakes in the apartment included Northern Pacific and Great Basin.
When Dix walked into the apartment he took two five-gallon buckets with plastic lids with small holes for ventilation.
Several minutes later he walked back to his truck and said, "There are five rattlers. I'm going to have to grab a bigger tote."
Dix brought the rattlesnakes out from the apartment in a large plastic container with small holes in the lid for ventilation and put the container on his truck's front seat. Their collective rattling could be heard from the end of the driveway. The gaboon was also in a container and placed in the front seat. He then drove off to an undisclosed location.
Dix said the gaboon viper is "very beautiful. It looks like velvet."
Dix said he has seen an upswing in calls to pick up exotic reptiles along the Wasatch Front. In the past three years he has picked up alligators that have been on the loose in areas like Hill Air Force Base and Utah State University's Botanical Gardens in Kaysville.