Woman escapes Proctorsville fire; cat survives fire and ice
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | January 03,2014
Photo by Len Emery
Caked with ice, Proctorsville Fire Department captain Bob Glidden Jr. answers questions at the scene of a structure fire that began in a wood stove in a back room at about 3:30 a.m. and quickly spread to the main house. The lone occupant of 601 Main St. in Proctorsville escaped with her dog and a cat. The cat ran back into the building but was found later, covered in icicles but alive.
PROCTORSVILLE — Area firefighters from six departments battled temperatures that hovered at 6 below zero early Friday morning when a fire broke out at a home at 601 Main Street. The fire was later traced to a wood stove.
Proctorsville Fire Chief Bob Glidden Sr. said that the woman living in the house was able to escape with her dog and cat — although the cat ran back into the house.
“She ran out in the road barefoot and without a coat, and I guess it was a good thing she didn’t wait,” said the chief, who added that he didn’t know the woman’s name.
The fire was spreading rapidly, and the woman — a sister of the building’s owner — had been sleeping when the fire broke out. The owner of record at the Cavendish Town Office is Stephanie Busick of Harwood, Md.
Glidden said the woman was able to call in the fire at 3:37 a.m., and escape the two and a half story building. Firefighters were on the scene 14 minutes later, he said.
Firefighters wrapped her in blankets and got her in one of the firetrucks, he said. She was checked by crews from Ludlow Ambulance, he said, and later left with her father, who lives in the area.
Glidden said the building was a total loss as the roof was gone and the back wing of the house, where the woodstove had been, had collapsed.
The house is two doors down from Cavendish Elementary School and Proctorsville Fire Station.
He said the fire quickly shot up to the attic, and firefighters had to withdraw from the building. He said the old wood frame house had a balloon construction, which meant the crews had to be wary of potential fires concealed within the walls.
Glidden said fighting the fire was difficult because of the temperature, but the key to firefighting in severely cold weather is not to shut anything down. He said several air packs used by firefighters froze and were inoperable, but otherwise there weren’t equipment issues or injuries to the 40 firefighters on the scene.
Firefighters from Cavendish, Chester, Ludlow, Springfield and Ascutney helped fight the fire, and fire crews from Reading and West Windsor covered empty stations in Proctorsville and Cavendish, he said.
The chief said his son, Bob Glidden Jr., later found the cat alive inside the house — but covered with icicles and mewing. The chief said the firefighters wrapped the cat in blankets and brought it to the fire station. The animal was later brought to the Springfield Animal Hospital in an attempt to save its life, and the chief said he had been told that the cat will survive its ordeal.
Dr. Dena Meehan, a veterinarian at the animal hospital, said the cat, a 1-year-old black male cat named Houdini, was severely hypothermic when it arrived.
It was so cold, its core temperature didn’t even register on the thermometer at 95 degrees, the doctor said, and it was shivering. A cat’s normal temperature is 101.5 to 102.5.
“We used a hair dryer, gave it a warm IV, and warm water enema, and used a warm air blanket,” she said.
“He’s doing quite well. He’s purring and eating,” she said, noting the cat hadn’t been burned or its fur singed by the fire. “He really got soaked from the water and it was so cold. I think he’s going to be OK.”