A building in the far north metro used as a boarding kennel caught fire early Tuesday and 18 dogs inside died before firefighters could put out the flames.

The owner, who had been in Texas training dogs, was driving back to the Twin Cities on Tuesday night and said he had “no clue” about the cause of the fire at Waterview Kennels in Stacy, Minn.

“I know what I was told and I know a bunch of dogs died,” Greg Schreiner said by phone. “I know the building was completely destroyed.”

Schreiner said that his wife was looking after the kennel, typically used to house animals short-term, while he was down south. He said he didn’t know how many animals were in the kennel at the time of the fire, but added that most of the dogs that died belonged to his wife.

“They become part of the family,” Schreiner said. “We feel for our clients as much as we feel for ourselves.”

The Isanti Fire District and deputies from the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office responded to the fire around 4:35 a.m. By the time crews arrived, the building, just off Interstate 35 at 2695 245th Av. NE., was fully engulfed and the roof had collapsed, said Al Jankovich, chief of the Isanti Fire District.

“It was well ahead of us,” Jankovich said.

By early Tuesday afternoon, authorities had recovered the remains of 17 dogs; another dog had yet to be found, but was presumed dead, said Isanti County Sheriff Chris Caulk.

Waterview is a full-service kennel offering boarding for dogs and cats, according to its website. It was previously known as Typo Lake Kennels.

The pole barn-style building with wood beams and tin sheeting that caught fire had the kennel on one side and a garage, used to store equipment and cars, on the other. It did not have a sprinkler system and fire crews did not see any alarms, Jankovich said.

Jankovich said the caretaker was last in the building around 1:30 a.m. and had checked on a wood boiling system that was outside the structure and located near the kennel. The boiling system heats water to provide heat for the kennel.

It was not immediately clear if the boiler was responsible for the blaze, “but it is something we are looking at,” Jankovich said.

The State Fire Marshal was on the scene Tuesday afternoon investigating.

“A lot of people’s lives were disrupted,” Caulk said. “My heart goes out to them.”