OAKHURST – An Oakhurst woman credits her cat with alerting her to a fire in her home on Thursday evening that could have been a disaster for herself and her neighbors.
Nancy has been living in her apartment just north of the Old Corral grocery on Road 222 for about 5 years. She was turning in early to prepare for an early morning, when she noticed that her cat, lovingly nicknamed “Dooz,” who would normally be curled up and sleeping basically on top of her, was not there.When she went searching for her feline companion, she was surprised to find the cat in another room.
“She was laying just flat on the floor,” said Nancy, “and when I went to pick her up, she hissed at me.” That’s when she smelled the smoke.
Nancy grabbed the phone to call 911, but there was no dial tone, and the power was out. So she scooped up her cat and ran next door to call for help.
When firefighters arrive on the scene, there were flames in the wall next to the back door, and smoke was billowing out of her apartment, the center unit in a tri-plex.
According to Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson, the problem started just under the floor near the back door with a wiring problem. The primary ground wire was disconnected, causing a chemical reaction known as pyrolysis.
“The wood heats up until it can’t absorb any more heat, and finally catches fire,” Christopherson explained. “The wood basically begins charcoaling. It’s something that can also happen with zero-clearance fireplaces that are improperly installed.”
Nancy had spent the last couple nights in Fresno, and felt very fortunate that she was home when the fire started.
“My cat was just acting strange,” she said. “I knew something wasn’t right.
Firefighters arrived on scene at about 8:50 p.m. and kept the fire contained to the wall near the back door. The power meter was “toast,” and PG&E was called out to replace the meter and check the electrical system.
Cal Fire Engine #4254 and #4264 responded, along with Madera County Engine #18 and Water Tender #18 from Cedar Valley and Madera County Engine #12 out of Oakhurst.