Once again, there is a story about cats being killed in a fire and I always notice that under these circumstances people are rarely killed. The people get out, but the cats don’t. In this instance a cat hotel (boarding cattery) was situated in a mall in Los Angeles. A part of the mall caught fire and the smoke from that fire permeated into a cat hotel in the mall. There appears to have been 19 cats in the cat hotel, 17 died because of smoke inhalation and two were saved. Of course, I don’t know the exact circumstances, but I always believe that cats can be saved.
Update: It seems that the firefighters did not get to the cats fast enough. Perhaps they were unaware of the cat hotel. If that was the case, it was an administrative error.
It must have taken some time for the smoke and pollutants to drift into the cat hotel. Time enough, I would have thought, for the cats to be removed from the hotel if systems were in place to remove them quickly.
The blaze was contained in a part of the mall unconnected to the cat hotel although none of the businesses has sprinklers. This is all about smoke which went into neighbouring businesses. My research indicates that more than 80% of fire-related deaths are due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
In addition, the amount of oxygen in the year depletes because oxygen is needed to fuel the fire plus there are toxic gases emitted such as carbon monoxide as mentioned, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen chloride plus soot particles. They all combine to cause death if enough of them are inhaled.
The issue that needs to be discussed is why weren’t these cats removed from the cat hotel in the time they had to get them out. It is likely that firefighters ordered that everybody evacuate the mall when the fire started. This meant the cats were left inside the hotel to be killed by the fumes and smoke.
So, somebody, I would suggest, made a decision that the life of the person attending the hotel at the time of the fire was more important than the lives of the cats they were looking after. And therefore, the employee at the hotel simply abandoned the cat under the orders of the firefighters.
And importantly, I think we have to conclude that the firefighters did not go in and remove the cats. They had the breathing equipment to do that successfully. They had the time to do it I would argue. But they decided that they were “just cats” and they could die.
The bottom line in the assessment has to be that the cats were expendable because all the people got out but almost none of the cats got out.
Alternatively, they could have simply opened the enclosures in which the cats were living. And then open the front door to the hotel and allow the cats to run out into the street. That would have been a desperate measure and it would not have been a great solution because you’ve then got to find the cats, but the lives of the cats would have been saved, the lesser of two evils. Why didn’t they do that?
Why didn’t the firefighters go into the hotel and pull the cats out? They must have decided that it was impractical, and it does depend upon the amount of time they had but if smoke is drifting from one part of a large structure into another and building up in other areas it implies to me that there was adequate time.
The problem I would suggest comes down to an executive decision by firefighters as mentioned. I don’t think that kind of decision is fair and proper. It’s a question of mentality and attitude. If the firefighters believe that the lives of animals are worth saving, they would have saved them.
Below are some more articles on firefighters. Sadly, it is not uncommon to read about cats dying on fires. All the stories that I have read by the way come from America and I’m not being critical of America I’m just stating a fact. It may be because America is better at reporting these sorts of stories or it may be because the procedures in extricating cats in boarding catteries and shelters in the event of a fire are inadequate.
I have argued that facilities where there are lots of cats should have fire prevention methods similar to those available to protect humans. I’m thinking of smoke alarms and sprinklers.