FREEDOM (KDKA) –- A firefighter was injured and more than a dozen exotic cats were killed when fire engulfed an apartment building in Beaver County Sunday morning.
According to officials at the scene, the fire broke out around 8 a.m. at the building on Fifth Street in Freedom.
Pictures, which were taken by a neighbor, show that thick smoke quickly engulfed the structure.
“All I know is my bedroom started getting smoky and I heard my neighbor yelling,” said Linda Scott, a resident of the apartment.
Authorities say the fire started in the first-floor apartment and sent flames shooting through the roof. Neighbors ran across the street to help.
“We grabbed the one lady, got her across the street and then everybody else showed up,” said Jerry Czopek, a neighbor. “And from there, they took her to the hospital.”
The fire was a costly one for the Freedom Fire Department. A firefighter was injured when he fell through the floor.
“We went right into emergency defensive mode; pulled him out of there, got him into an ambulance,” said Asst. Chief Mark Forrest, of the Freedom Fire Department.
Plus, firefighters had to deal with exploding oxygen tanks.
Both residents are cat owners. Scott said 16 perished, including several exotic felines she was breeding for other owners, worth up to $12,000.
“I can’t replace the show cats for less than $600. I can’t replace the breeders for under a thousand,” she said. “But that’s not really what they’re worth, you know, the companionship and everything else is gone.”
Authorities say they believe the fire may have been started by one of the cats.
“One of the cats knocked over one of the heaters in the house, and caught the rug on fire and that’s what started it and once it hit the oxygen that just accelerated the fire,” said Asst. Chief Forrest.
There’s no word on the condition of the injured firefighter. A neighbor is also being treated for smoke inhalation.