Firefighters battle inferno in Aiken neighborhood, rescue dozens of cats

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, May 8, 2013

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- On Wednesday afternoon, firefighters from the Aiken Department of Public Safety battled 15-foot flames that ripped through a home on Tennessee Lane in Aiken.

"The corner of the house was fully on fire. It was burning through the window on the corner of the house," said David Park, an eyewitness who lives and works nearby.

Park called 911 when he surprisingly noticed the inferno.

"Fully involved! I mean, it wasn't like there was any way that it had just started," he said.

Sgt. Jake Mahoney with Aiken Public Safety says the fire broke out just before 2 p.m.

"There was really little opportunity for us to do more than attack the fire from the outside of the residence. Having a charged house made that even much more dangerous," he said.

Mahoney says even though the homeowner wasn't there, more than a dozen cats were inside.

"We've been told there were several dozen cats," he said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Animal Control was able to rescue about 16 cats. Two of them were in critical condition. Those cats were taken to the Aiken SPCA, but News 12 was able to spot at least a dozen more left behind.

One of the first kittens rescued was even given oxygen by Public Safety and returned to its distraught owner.

"It's nice to see the homeowner reunited with at least one of his pets," Mahoney said.

At the end of the day, the homeowner isn't left with much, but Park says he hopes the neighborhood will pull together to help.

"You know, I know there's a church right up the hill here, and these people down here have lived here for quite some time, so I would imagine that that's probably the case," he said.

The homeowner says he's lived at the house for more than 50 years and that he's now essentially homeless.

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