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Cats saved by firefighters

Sarah Gonser

“They held the masks to the cats’ faces and used the demand valve to force oxygen down their throats. They did not use mouth-to-mouth,” said Tahoe Douglas Fire Department Chief Tim Smith.

Cat resuscitation? That’s right.

A one-bedroom apartment caught fire at Lake Park Apartments, 134 Kahle Drive, shortly after 2 p.m. last Sunday. Residents at the Stateline apartment building put out most of the blaze before the Tahoe Douglas Fire Department arrived. Two of the residents suffered smoke inhalation and a third was cut on the hand.



“After the fire, it became apparent that there were a lot of cats in the apartment,” said Assistant Fire Chief Bruce Van Cleemput. “The contents of the apartment were badly burned and many of the cats were killed.”

Approximately 14 cats lived in the apartment, which was gutted by the flames.



Firemen were able to revive four felines by holding oxygen masks on their faces and forcing 100-percent oxygen into their mouths and down their throats.

“Human life is our first concern but these firefighters are very compassionate and, given enough resources, they do whatever they can to first save human lives and then an animal’s,” Van Cleemput said.

The four cats were transported to the Douglas County Animal Shelter. They were later taken to the Carson Valley Veterinary Hospital for additional treatment.

“There were three kittens whose mom had died, and a mom who lost her kittens,” said Dr. Thom Haig, who treated the cats at the hospital. “The kittens were treated for smoke inhalation and are fine, the mother suffered brain damage, though. She is slowly recovering her vision now and is slightly ambulatory.”

The unusually high number of cats living in the apartment was a surprise to Lake Park Apartments manager Charles Nagel.

“There was definitely no pet deposit for that apartment,” Nagel said. “Fourteen cats seems somewhat excessive in my opinion.”

Fire officials later ruled that the fire was an accident, according to Van Cleemput.

The kittens went home Tuesday with their owner, who was not available for comment. The mother cat is slated to go home today.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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