Almost 100 rescued cats die in house fire

Almost 100 cats are clawing at that big scratching post in the sky after a fire ripped through a San Jose home and left dozens of rescued felines dead Tuesday morning.

The one-alarm fire was reported at 1:45 a.m. at a residence on the 6900 block of Polvadero Drive and Bernal Avenue. The single-family home, owned by cat rescuer Carole Miller, was occupied by one dog and more than 100 cats.

When firefighters arrived, they found Miller curled in a fetal position in a backyard enclosure, trapped by a surrounding fence that kept her rescue animals from escaping.

Using axes, firefighters cut through the fence and pulled Miller to safety.

By 2:15 a.m., the fire was extinguished. Aside from the homeowner, the only survivors left were seven cats and Miller’s dog, Bunny.

Miller, in her 70s, began the Stanford Cat Network in 1989 to rescue homeless cats living on Stanford University property. The volunteer turned her home into a cat sanctuary, where she rescued, cared for and neutered the animals for adoption.

Miller told NBC Bay Area the felines were like her children:

“I devoted my whole life to them. […] They were well cared for and terribly loved.”

Inside her South San Jose home, fire Capt. Reggie Williams said fire officials found mainly deceased cats. Williams told SJ Mercury News:

“There were cats in every room of the house.”

Due to crate enclosures, the cats were unable to escape and many ultimately died from smoke inhalation, said the fire captain.

Though the cause of the fire is still undetermined, officials said it began in Miller’s bedroom as she slept on the couch. According to Williams, circumstances don’t appear suspicious.

For those that didn’t make it, a choked-up Miller told NBC Bay Area she plans to “take all their little bodies” to Napa, where she will cremate them.

The remaining half-dozen cats that survived the fire are now in the custody of the city’s animal services department.