By Dave Russell
Three tiny kittens have a new chance at life and no one was injured in a house fire in the Barkers Creek community on Sunday.
The call came in at about 11:30 p.m. Sunday about a fire at 258 Sycamore Drive in the Piney Mountain neighborhood.
“It started as a chimney fire but it ended up getting into the house,” said Mallary Caraway of the Sylva Fire Department.
The home was “probably a total loss,” Caraway said.
“When we got there, Qualla had it knocked down pretty good,” she said. “They did a really, really standup job containing it to the area where it started.”
The Qualla Fire Department was the first unit called, with mutual aid from Savannah, Sylva and Balsam.
The home, with a tax value of $174,280, sits on 1.3 acres and is owned by Nelson and Diane Willis.
The kittens’ rescue involved the Qualla and Sylva fire departments.
“It was a team effort,” Caraway said. “I’m in the picture, so I guess I am the face of it, but there were a lot of people involved. I just happened to be the one who scooped them up and took them.”
Even in the commotion and while wearing full gear, Caraway could hear one of the kittens meowing.
“We were in there doing our thing and I heard a meow and I’m an animal lover and a huge cat-person,” she said. “After we got the fire put out we went to looking for them and we were digging and digging and digging because we thought they were in the living room.”
The owner said the cat might have birthed the kittens, now three weeks old, in the attic.
Personnel with the Qualla Fire Department brought in a ladder and propped it up in the living room ceiling, which had been pulled down to fight the fire.
“The last little bit of ceiling, they were sitting on the ledge,” Caraway said. “They were very disoriented. I’m sure they got some smoke inhalation.”
One of the kittens was more vocal than its siblings and probably saved all their lives, she said.
A Qualla fireman handed the kittens down.
The owner said he didn’t know what to do with them because the mother cat ran away when the fire started and the man had two dogs and there was no way he could take the kittens, too, Caraway said.
“I said ‘I’ll take them to my house,’” she said. “So I took them home and my fiance and I bottle fed them and I got up with Catman the next day and took them over to him.”
Kaleb Lynch of the Catman2 Shelter snapped the picture at the shelter.
At least two of the kittens have a future home, Caraway said.