ST. PETERSBURG — Firefighters had two missions when they descended upon the burning mobile home off Gandy Boulevard late Thursday:
Save the home next door, and save the cats trapped inside the blaze.
The neighbor's home escaped unscathed. The same cannot be said for the 11 cats that lived in trailer No. 46.
There was only one survivor, an orange tabby named Corky.
St. Petersburg Fire Rescue District Chief Rich Johnson said firefighters arrived to find flames shooting through the roof and the cats inside straining to get out. Firefighters started breaking windows to let them out.
"I saw a cat hanging on a window screen when I got here," Johnson said. But after firefighters tried to free the cat, the chief said, the animal ran the wrong way.
Neighbors reported the fire at Twin City Mobile Home Park, 10636 Gandy Blvd. N about 11:30 p.m. It took firefighters from St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park about 40 minutes to knock it down.
No people were inside at the time.
John P. McNally Jr., 62, spent half his life in that home. He was caring for his 82-year-old mother at her home when a Pinellas sheriff's deputy called him.
"I have some very disturbing news for you," McNally said the deputy told him. "Your home has been damaged in a fire."
"How bad?" asked McNally, a volunteer teacher at Pinellas Technical Education Center.
"Bad," the deputy said.
After arriving home, McNally had to be consoled after he saw the bodies of two of his pets on the ground, wrapped in blankets. The oldest of his cats was 13, he said, the youngest 5.
His home was declared a total loss. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
During the clean-up, a firefighter offered McNally a folder of information to help him cope in the days ahead.
"Is there a coupon for a pizza in there?" McNally asked. "How about a six pack? Because I could sure use that."