15 Cats Die in Berkeley Animal Shelter Blaze


An early morning fire destroyed part of the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society in Berkeley, CA, taking the lives of 15 cats awaiting adoption. Here’s the story from SFGate:

Fifteen cats died in a fire that damaged the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society early today, authorities said, but a woman who lives above the animal shelter is crediting her pit bull mix with waking her up and saving her life.

The fire broke out in a dryer at the shelter at 2700 Ninth Street in west Berkeley at about midnight, Assistant Fire Chief Sabina Imrie said. The dryer was running at the time, but the reason for the fire is under investigation, authorities said. A humane society official said she did not believe anyone had been in the shelter when the blaze started.

The 15 cats that died were in cages, waiting to be adopted. The fire destroyed the cat-sheltering area, laundry and offices. Damage was estimated at $500,000.

Word quickly spread about the fire, and 10 shelter volunteers went to the scene, Imrie said. The volunteers and firefighters were able to save about 10 other cats and all 14 dogs at the facility.

“It was an immediate response by the volunteers, who worked side by side with fire and evacuated animals,” Imrie said.

Johanna White, who lives in an apartment above the shelter, was sleeping when her pit bull-boxer mix, Baby, began barking after the fire broke out. White had been sick and didn’t hear the smoke detectors in her home, Imrie said.

“The dog started whimpering and jumping on her,” Imrie said.

White told reporters that had it not been for her dog, she could have died.

“I’m just so grateful that my dog woke me up,” White said. “I’m just so, so lucky that I have a good dog. I was not a dog fan, either. She’s my husband’s and my daughter’s dog. I might have to re-evaluate my stance.”

White said only she and Baby had been home at the time of the fire. “She’s definitely a keeper,” White said of her dog. “She adopted us, too – a couple of years ago, she just showed up.”

The dogs at the shelter escaped injury because a glass door separated them from the area where the fire broke out, said humane society spokeswoman Katherine O’Donnell.

O’Donnell said she was heartened that so many animals were saved, but devastated by the cats’ death and the damage to the building.

“It’s absolutely tragic,” O’Donnell said.

Some of the animals that survived the fire are being cared for by humane society staffers, and others are at a veterinary emergency service. The shelter is asking for donations and for volunteers to foster the displaced animals temporarily. More information is available at www.berkeleyhumane.org.

“Our primary concern is to really raise as many monetary donations as we can possibly can so we can rebuild as quickly as possible,” O’Donnell said.

The Marin Humane Society is donating some of the proceeds from a Mill Valley dog walk Sunday to its Berkeley-East Bay counterpart, said executive director Suzanne Golt.


Click here to donate online.

To donate by phone, call (510) 845-7735.

To send a check, mail to: BEBHS, 2700 9th St, Berkeley,CA 94710.

[SOURCES: Story and 2nd photo: SFGate; Lead Photo: San Jose Mercury News]

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