Firefighters' response, humanity applauded

Posted: Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Today firefighters responded to a home fire near my house on Kiana Lane in Kenai. Having moved to Alaska just one year ago from southern California (in part to get away from wildfires -- my husband and I had evacuated our home twice in five years), I didn't expect to see any fires near my home (not with so much rain!).

I witnessed the team of firefighting professionals (and at least one police officer) move quickly, efficiently, and effectively as they moved in to fight the fire. Memories of evacuations, helping friends who had lost their homes to the southern California fires, and the general feelings of fear I experienced during those situations rolled through my head and my heart as I watched.

Suddenly I saw one of the team carry a cat out of the house, and across the street to a neighbor's house. I'm a big cat person and was so happy that the cat had been rescued and that the firefighter was treating it so humanely. I watched for several more minutes and was just about to walk home when I saw another firefighter come out of the house with a second cat. The cat was gray and limp. As a huge rush of emotion overtook me and tears welled up in my eyes, I watched the firefighter gently lay the cat on the ground and unwrap what looked like a small oxygen mask which he appeared to place over the mouth of the cat.

My last image of that scene was the firefighter on his knees bending over the cat. I just couldn't watch anymore and cried as I walked the short distance back to my house, where I looked at my four cats and felt incredible sadness.

Just a few minutes ago I wrote a note to the owners of the house, whom I do not know. I walked back over toward the house to deliver the note, and firefighters were mopping up. A man who apparently was a volunteer was taking off his vest and returning to his car. I complimented him on the response to the call. He was humble and pleasant.

I then asked him, "Did the second cat make it? The gray one?" He replied, "Yes ma'am, it was resuscitated and has been taken to the vet; it appears to be fine."

After repeatedly hugging this poor man as I wept, I went to the house and hugged several more firefighters, one of whom was the gentleman who actually resuscitated the cat. He said, "I worked on him (the cat) for quite a while, and once he started coming around he was very active; I'm pretty sure he's going to be OK." More weeping on my part. Evidently there were two cats, and three other pets in that house when the fire broke out, and all survived.

The family that lives in that house have a long difficult road ahead, and thank God they were not hurt. I can only imagine the fear and confusion they must be feeling right now.

We as a community will, I'm sure, do what we can to help them face the challenges they'll encounter in the days, weeks and months to come.

In the meantime, kudos to the group of kind professionals who responded to that fire today. Whenever I'm feeling frustrated or sad at the state of the world we live in, I'm going to recall the sight of that man bending over that cat, saving its life, and restoring my faith in humanity.

Kenai firefighters and emergency response personnel, you rock!

Alyx McNeal

Kenai



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