Columbus (IN) Firefighters Rescue 18 Pets from Fire

Kolton is held by rescuer, Firefighter Aaron Eichel. Oxygen is being provided by firefighter Chris Owens.

Kolton is held by rescuer, Firefighter Aaron Eichel. Oxygen is being provided by firefighter Chris Owens.

By Mike Wilson

On February 25, Columbus (IN) firefighters responded to a residential fire in the 2100 block of Park Ave in East Columbus. At 9 p.m., responders were dispatched to 2111 Park Ave with reports of occupants possibly still inside the home. Firefighters arrived on the scene within six minutes of the call and encountered flames and smoke coming from the windows of the single-story home.

After completing a rapid scene assessment, firefighters received additional information that the occupants of the home had escaped prior to the arrival of responders. Unable to confirm these reports, an interior firefighting  crew made entry through the front door of the home. Upon entering the home, crews immediately located fire within a living room. As the firefighters advanced into the home, they applied water to the fire, which rapidly knocked down the flames.

With the fire under control, crews initiated a primary search of the home, looking for any occupants that may have become trapped by fire and heavy smoke. During this time, additional engine companies were arriving at the scene. As the arriving crews staged themselves outside the home, they were approached by a resident that identified himself as having been inside the home when the fire was discovered. The adult male informed firefighters that everyone made it out of the residence but told firefighters that pets were still inside the smoke filled home, including several kittens. This information was radioed to interior firefighters, who at that time were actively performing a search of the home. As firefighters searched from room to room, they began to locate multiple pets. Inside the home firefighters discovered eight kittens, eight adult cats, and three dogs. As crews began to remove the pets from the home, firefighters determined one adult cat was deceased and an additional cat was in respiratory distress. Firefighters rushed the critical cat, “Kolton,” to the fire engine and began providing oxygen using  a specially designed pet oxygen mask. As firefighters provided oxygen therapy to Kolton, Columbus Regional Health EMS ambulance provide oxygen to another adult cat removed from the home.

According to the incident commander, Battalion Chief Dan Cleland, damage from fire was isolated to the living room. Battalion Chief Cleland said that smoke damage was extensive throughout the home. Chief Cleland said that, due to damages, the family will be displaced from the home. Chief Cleland commended the fast attack of the first arriving crew and attributed the successful rescue of the pets to their ability to quickly locate and extinguish the fire.  Battalion Chief Cleland states, “Whether it’s people or pets, seconds matter when exposed to the noxious gases produced in today’s modern fires. The men did an outstanding job of halting the progress of this fire and rescuing the pets.”   

Columbus Fire Department Investigator Matt Noblitt has ruled the fire as accidental, caused by overloading of an electrical powerstip. According to Noblitt, no working smoke alarms were discovered in the home. Damages to the home are estimated a $30,000.

In 2007, C.A.R.E.,  Inc., a Columbus based non-profit animal welfare group, provided all Bartholomew County fire departments with pet oxygen masks to assist in caring for animals injured during fires. The coned shaped masks allow firefighters to provide oxygen to animals , from dogs and cats to rabbits and birds. Three dogs, eight, kittens and seven adult cats survived the fire. All eighteen pets were reunited with the owners shortly after the fire was extinguished.  

Agencies that assisted at the scene included CRH EMS, Columbus Police Department, Duke Energy and the Salvation Army and Columbus City Utilities. No firefighters were injured during the incident.

The Columbus Fire Department reminds residents of the importance of working smoke alarms. A working smoke alarm can provide early detection of smoke allowing time to safely escape a domestic fire. It is also important to create a home fire escape plan designed specifically for your home. Once your home fire escape plan is created, practice it at least twice a year.

Mike Wilson is a captain and spokesman for the Columbus (IN) Fire Department.

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