Commerce Township firefighters rescued 38 cats from a house fire on Thursday.
Five other cats were found dead at the Winewood Lane home in the Lake Sherwood subdivision off Commerce Road, just east of Duck Lake Road.
Commerce Township Fire Chief Jim Dundas said the total number of cats in the home was likely closer to 50.
Dundas said firefighters responded to the home around 9:30 a.m. on October 20 after a passerby noticed smoke coming from the back of the house. An Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputy was first on the scene and woke a man sleeping in the house, pulling him to safety without any injuries.
“As firefighters arrived and entered the house, they continued to pull the cats out for over an hour as they fought the blaze,” Dundas said. “And they kept coming… Pets don’t handle smoke well and cats are hard to save. They hide and the smoke is poisonous. They had free rein throughout the house and in terms of living conditions. , it was very poor both for the animals and the people living there.”
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A space heater in the garage that was located too close to other objects was the cause of the fire, according to the chief.
“He was left unattended near ordinary combustibles,” Dundas said. “There should be at least 3 feet of empty space around a radiator, and it should never be left unattended.”
He was unsure if the three-level house had working heat, but noted that it had a “very high fire load” due to an abundance of contents.
Structurally, the house is in good condition, Dundas said, but is unlivable due to smoke damage and cat feces. He thinks it’s unlikely the owner will be able to return “for very long”.
“It’s a very sad case,” Dundas said. “Our guys did everything they could.”
The Oakland County Animal Control Division has launched an animal neglect and abuse investigation after it discovered the cats were living in “worrying conditions unrelated to the fire”, said Bill Mullan, head of Oakland County Public Information.
The surviving cats are undergoing veterinary evaluation and treatment at the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Adoption Center in Pontiac. The shelter sent the remains of the deceased cats to Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine for necropsies to determine the cause of death.
Once the investigation is complete, the case will be forwarded to the Oakland County District Attorney’s Office to determine any charges.
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