A Tampa family's pet cat might have lost all of its 9 lives in a house fire early Tuesday had city firefighters not brought along a newly donated pet oxygen mask.
Three adults and a child safely escaped 915 E. 28th Avenue as it was destroyed by flames but their cat, named Winky or Blinky, was trapped inside for about 20 minutes before firefighters could control the blaze enough to enter the home, said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Jason Penny.
When the cat was discovered shortly after 1:20 a.m. it was unresponsive and barely breathing, Penny said. After treatments with the specialized oxygen mask, though, the cat was walking around and breathing normally, he said.
"As a cat owner, it puts me at ease knowing our first responders could literally bring this cat back to life," Penny said.
All four Tampa Fire Rescue district chiefs have carried the small pet masks in their cars for several years but a week ago five more were donated to the department by pet fence company Invisible Fence Brand, Penny said.
It was by chance that officials decided to put the masks in engines serving Tampa's District 1, the district where the cat lived with the three adults and a child in a small wood-framed home. Invisible Fence Brand plans to soon donate enough masks for all 22 fire engines in Tampa Fire Rescue's fleet, he said.
Fire investigators said discarded smoking materials on the home's front porch sparked the fire, which was ruled an accident. The flames spread up an exterior wall and filled the home's attic, causing an estimated $60,000 worth of damage, Penny said.
Red Cross is now working with the displaced residents, he said.
Contact Anastasia Dawson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3377. Follow @adawsonwrites.