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Kitties and the Fire

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I don't think I ever told ya'll about my apartment building being on fire and me having to rescue my cats, have I? Well, I'll share it with ya'll in case anybody has to go through that horrible experience and I pray that nobody ever does.

It was just after Christmas 1999 but just before New Years. I was at work (I only lived 5 minutes from there) and it was about 11:00 a.m. A couple of the ladies there had gone to lunch early and when they got back one of them told me that there was a fire at my apartment complex and it looked like it was my building. At first I thought that it wasn't my building but then I thought I better go just to make sure. Well the police had the street closed and when the officer came to my car he said I had to turn around. I then proceeded to tell him that I lived there and he waved me on through. I had to pull over about a block from my complex, park and walk the rest of the way because that was as close as they would let me get. As I was jogging towards my complex I realized that it was my building. They weren't letting anybody in, so I went to one of the police officers and told them I had pets and had to get them out. So, the police officer went to get the maintenance man so they could get into my apartment because they weren't letting any residence inside. When the maintenance guy came I told him I had to get my cats out and he just stood there and didn't say anything for a moment and then said that he would get after it in a minute and for me to go wait in the apartment complex office. He walked away, but not in the direction of the building or the office and I could tell that he had no intentions of helping me. So, I started toward the apartment complex office but with the intentions of using it to go through and get to my apartment. The office was right by my building and the firefighters were fighting the fire from the other side of the building, so I knew I wouldn't be stoped from getting to my apartment. At the office were some of my fellow building residents and I told them about the maintenance man and how he wasn't doing anything to help me. I told them that I was going to go and get my cats and they followed me to help. Once we got up to the building one of the men, who's apartment was right in the path of the fire, told me that he heard one of the firefighters say that there was a firewall. He then proceeded to show me where and he pointed right between my apartment and the others that were burning. You could see smoke coming out from under the eeves and it stoped just after the fire wall at my apartment. So I proceeded to go up to my apartment while everyone waited down stairs. I asked them that once I got my cats out if they would hold them there for me and they were more than willing to help.

When I got into my apartment it was filled with smoke. At first I only had to pull the neck of my shirt over my mouth and nose while I looked around the living room and kitchen for the cats. None of them were out there so I proceeded to my bedroom. My bedroom was completely filled with smoke and I had to drop to my hands and knees. I first found Toonces under the bed, I had a bed skirt and the air under the bed was very clear - smart cat! I scooped her up and went downstairs to hand her to one of my neighbors. Then I found Patches at the back of my bedroom closet and handed her off. Then I went back up to look for Buttons and I couldn't find her anywhere. I started to panic, she was always my tricky hider. Then I remembered that Toonces sometimes got under the recliner. I didn't think that Buttons could fit under there, she's a big girl, but I looked anyways and sure enough she was there! So with her in my arms my neighbors and I went into the office where we set them down and I asked if everyone could please keep the door closed until I could get them all to my car. Then, I went back up to my apartment one more time to grab my contacts and contact supplies and that was it. I got back to the office grabed Patches and took her to the car. Then I went for Toonces. When I got back to the office to get Buttons, the door was standing wide open. I asked if anyone saw my cat go out the door but no one saw anything, but as I proceeded to search for her all over the office I couldn't find her. Then I looked all around the outside of the office building and couldn't find her. Eventually I had to stop looking and I took Patches and Toonces to the vet to be boarded. Then I went back to my complex, called my dad at work and he came right over to help me look for her, but we never found her.

They got the fire out pretty quick and luckily the fire wall kept the fire out of my apartment, but just barely. The apartment upstairs right behind me, which was the side where the fire started, wasn't so lucky. Evidently the fire started because of a Christmas tree in the bottom apartment on the very end. The fire proceeded to go up and back to the other 7 apartments on the one side of the fire wall; but the fire was stronger on the side where it started so it got to the apartment right behind me and the one downstairs behind me. Those two apartments are the only ones on the other side of the fire wall that got hit and were the only ones that didn't get completely destroyed once the fire reached them.

Around 5:00 p.m. they finally allowed us to go into our apartments. I was very lucky, I didn't even have water damage, I only had smoke damage. Everything was covered in soot and the whole place smelled like a fire pit. I bagged up all my clothes to take to my parents to wash and gathered up my toiletries since I would have to stay with my parents for a couple days until the apartment complex found a place to put me. I also grabbed all my picture boxes so I could make fliers for Buttons. That night I went to the complex really late to see if I could tempt Buttons to come out by shaking a container of food. Still, no Buttons.

The next morning I went around posting the fliers for Buttons. That evening around 5:00 p.m. I got a call from the apartment complex that Buttons was still in the office. They could here her meows but couldn't find her. I go there and found her in the cabinets under their sink behind a bunch of boxes. I was so happy to have her in my arms. I smelled her fur and like the others, she too smelled like smoke. I took her straight over to the vets to be boarded.

A week later I was in a new apartment and I went to go get my babies. I figured since it was the vet I had worked for and he still really liked me, (he would often try and get me to start working weekends for him) that I would get a discount considering the circumstances and all. Nope, it cost me nearly $300.00.

The whole circumstances of the fire was really sad. At the apartment where the Christmas tree fire started, there was a mom, her two sons and their dog (their dad was at work). The mom had turned the Christmas tree lights off the night before and was asleep with the two year old in the bedroom. The older boy who was 5 had gotten up and turned the tree lights on. The mom woke up just after the fire had started and tried to get to her other son but the fire was very intense and had already gotten to the bedroom. Eventually she broke the window in the room but both her and the little one suffered burns and were life flighted to the hospital; they both survived but the boy had been burned over half his body. The five year old and the family dog were not so lucky and were found together curled up under the coffee table.

I originally didn't want to tell this part of the story because of how sad it is, but as tragic as it is every family can learn from it.
post #2 of 7
Sabra - that is just so scary. I think you were so brave to go back into your building. But what choice did you have? With your babies in there there was no question - I know, I'd do the same.

Sometimes I lie in bed at night and make escape plans in the case of fire. I have a big, tough leather holdall which I'd put all 3 cats into - I'd rather they fought a bit and survived . . .

I hate fires - always have done since I saw a public information film as a child which gave me nightmares for months. It was the voice of a child shouting and crying for it's mummy while the camera panned through a burnt-out house.

The little boy and the dog was heartbreaking. It is a lesson to all people - but what can you do? A five-year-old will explore and a Christmas Tree is a magical thing at that age.

I'm so sorry you had to experience such a horrible thing. I'd say I hope you're over it now - but it never really leaves you.

I witnessed a terrible road accident, which was a fatality and I had to testify in the inquest and everything. I still think about that a lot too.

post #3 of 7
Sabra, Thank goodness you managed to get your babies out safely! Even more important-- you were safe. What a horrible tragedy. Of course you were taking a huge chance! But you were very brave, and I understand why you did it.
post #4 of 7
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thanks, and I hope you all know I wasn't trying to boast. I just wanted to share a traumatic experience; probably one of the more traumatic of my life. I don't think I have ever gone through so many emotions in such a short period of time. In a away, I felt guilty for being so happy that my cats were okay, because of all the tragedy that occured that day.
post #6 of 7
I have such a fear of fire always have and had been avoiding this thread. But I am glad I finally read it and doubly glad that you found all your cats. Never once when reading it did I sense fear in your actions, only determination to rescue those you love the most. Thanks for sharing your story.
post #7 of 7
I too have always been afraid of fire, and around here you hear about it daily in the news.

My sister went through an almost identical situation as you have, scept her neighbor deliberatly set the fire!!!

She too had 3 cats, and threw them all in a small cat carrier and got out of there, luckily NOONE was hurt
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