By Patrick Yost Editor

A “suspicious” Maxey Lane fire decimated a permitted reptile handler’s snake collection and, authorities believe, was the impetus for the theft of two massive snakes and an alligator.

On Wednesday, October 30, Madison Police Department officers were dispatched to the 1 p.m. fire at Maxey Lane after David Burke, the home owner, reported a burglary at the residence. Burke told authorities that someone had entered a shed on his property and removed a cage containing an eight–foot green burmese python, a cage containing a six foot spider ball python and a container holding a four–foot alligator.

A Madison Police Department report states that Burke noticed smoke coming from a shed that contains his snake collection and alligator. He said a padlock from the shed was missing.

When he opened the door, reports state, Burke observed that the floor of the shed and a cabinet was on fire. Burke extinguished the fire with a water hose and called the police.

Madison Fire Marshall Gene Porter said the fire was “suspicious in nature” because of the theft of the animals. Reports state that approximately 25 snakes, including venomous snakes, in the shed perished from smoke in the fire. Burke estimated the loss of the animals at $8,000.

According to Porter, Burke is a licensed reptile owner who is inspected annually by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Madison Animal Control Officer Cindy Wiemann said Burke was a local resource for reptilian capture and knowledge. Porter said no reptiles escaped the enclosure during the burglary and fire. “He accounted for all of his snakes,” he said.