Duplex destroyed, family and pets escape fire

‘The cat did just what we teach the little kids to do: stay low and go’

by BETH ALTENA

Heat from the blaze melts the front of a vehicle parked in the driveway.

A family cat survived a fire so hot and smoky that an entire neighborhood was hidden in the smoke as firefighters tried to extinguish the fully engaged blaze about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, June 8. Neighbors helped the family at 137 Highland View Court remove the pet dogs, but could not locate the 14-year-old house cat. It was speculated at the scene that the fire began in the garage or outside the home and quickly ignited the entire house. According to City Manager Michael Young, who watched fire fighters battle the blaze, the department arrived quickly.

The fire was so intense on the windy day that people in the neighborhood were worried their homes might also be set on fire. In addition to multiple Rockford fire trucks and emergency vehicles, trucks from the Algoma Fire Department, Courtland Fire Department and Cannon Fire Department arrived to assist. Young called this “a great example of the success of our Mutual Aid Agreement.” He also said it helped to have many of Rockford’s police and fire personnel cross-trained to be available at a major emergency.

Firefighters had the blaze under control and entered the house to continue putting out burns as smoke began to clear. After the fire was contained, the family cat remarkably was found alive in the ruined home, apparently unharmed. A firewall separating the two halves of the duplex held, and the other residence was only damaged by smoke.

Chief Mike Reus said an investigation into the cause of the fire will take place this week, but he thinks electrical issues may prove to be the source. He called the fire a “tough one,” which burned very hot and hard. “It was the most intense heat I’ve felt in a long time,” he stated.

Reus said he was proud of his crew, who were aided by ideal placement of a fire hydrant directly in front of the home. “That makes a huge difference,” he said. “One of the other firefighters asked how Rockford is able to grow fire hydrants right in front of our fires.”

Reus also said the intact firewall between the two halves of the building saved the second duplex. Often cable companies or residents compromise the firewall by putting a small hole in it. This was not the case in this instance and Reus said, given the fierceness of the fire, it is remarkable the other side of the duplex suffered as little damage as it did.

The cat was found by firefighters in the basement, scared but unhurt. Reus said the cat either was in the basement or went in the basement. “Heat and smoke rise, so the cat did exactly the right thing,” he said. “It’s what we teach the little kids in school: stay low and go, and that’s what the cat did.”

 

 

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