A RELIEVED pet owner has spoken of the moment she rescued her beloved gerbils from a burning shed.
Susan Finch, from Gosport, was woken late on Thursday night by her neighbour who told her about the fire in her garden.
Firefighters were quickly there to rescue more than 30 of the pets, which were taken away unharmed in their glass tanks.
Susan, who runs Gosport Gerbil Rescue from her home in Captains Close, said: ‘Someone kept knocking on the door and we were sure someone was playing with us.
‘When we saw the fire I opened the door to get them out and this dark smoke just came out. I couldn’t see any of the tanks so I had to work my way in with my hands out.
‘The glass was far too hot to touch but then the fire brigade arrived to help.’
Susan, 55, started looking after gerbils as a child and has spent the past five years looking for ones being sold online to give them a new home.
The gerbils were all checked for smoke inhalation but are now being kept inside the home until the shed is repaired.
It is not yet known how the fire was started.
Susan, who lives with husband Nigel, 55, and daughter Laura, 21, said the impact of the incident took hold when she left for work at Asda in Fareham on Friday morning.
She said: ‘I really struggled with the aftermath. I couldn’t get to sleep. When I was driving the car to work I was going really slowly because I was thinking about it, and I burst into tears a couple of times.’
Alongside the rescues, daughter Laura runs a Facebook group dedicated to gerbils and how best to look after them.
The family is waiting to find out whether their insurance will help to repair the shed.
Susan said: ‘I can’t thank my neighbour and the fire brigade enough for what they did.’
Speaking about her gerbil collection, she added: ‘I just love the little guys. They’re not dirty and they don’t smell. They’re just fascinating.’
A Hampshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said crews from Gosport fire station had been called to the house just after 11.30pm and had put the fire out using a hose reel.