Man whose cat was saved from burning building by Ann Arbor firefighter thankful, starting over
Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com
Gallagher lived in a third-floor apartment at building 5086 at the Schooner Cove apartment complex in Ypsilanti Township. A grease fire in one of the other apartments in the building spread and a devastating blaze displaced 11 families.
Gallagher said he was at work on the afternoon of Jan. 7 at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System when the fire broke out. He said he returned from lunch and found he’d received calls, emails and texts telling him to come back to Schooner Cove right away. He was shocked when he arrived at the complex.
“It was bad. My first reaction was that it looked like everything was gone,” he said. “I was concerned about my cat and if he got out. There were things of sentimental value that were destroyed and can’t be replaced, but other things would be replaced with time.”
Gallagher didn’t know how lucky Earnhardt had been.
Ann Arbor firefighter Jason Gravelle had climbed a ladder to get to Gallagher’s third-story apartment and, with the assistance of other Ann Arbor firefighters, rescued Earnhardt. Gravelle said Monday he pulled the cat out from under a desk as the apartment’s roof began falling in.
When he got to Schooner Cove, Gallagher received word Earnhardt was safely in the complex’s leasing office. Earnhardt nuzzled against his owner and buried his head in Gallagher’s arms when the two of them were reunited.
Gallagher was told about Gravelle’s actions after he picked up Earnhardt, but wasn’t able to thank him at the scene of the fire.
“I didn’t get too many details other than firefighters pulled him out of the window,” he said. “I didn’t stick around, I took him to the vet to get checked out.”
Earnhardt had to stay overnight at a veterinarian’s clinic to see if he showed any signs of injury from smoke inhalation, Gallagher said. Earnhardt had some small burns in the back of his mouth from breathing in the burning room, but veterinarians say the cat is no worse for the wear.
Gallagher and Earnhardt stayed at a friend's house until he found a new apartment near the end of last week. He had moved into the new residence and was getting thing sorted out on Friday.
Earnhardt continues to recover — Gallagher said he was pretty timid and nervous for a couple days after the fire.
“He was timid for the next day or so, he wouldn’t eat,” Gallagher said, but “after a day or so, he’s come around to eating again and he’s not hiding anywhere.”
Gallagher is back to work at the VA Hospital and dealing with all the usual complications that come with a devastating fire — talking with insurance adjusters, figuring out what can be salvaged from the apartment and how to deal with future plans that must be put on hold. He said he was looking at buying a condominium or small house in the area before the fire, but had to find more temporary housing.
As life settles down, Gallagher is looking to get in touch with Gravelle to personally thank him for saving Earnhardt.
“I’d just like to thank him,” he said. “It’s one thing to risk yourself to get into a burning building and save another person. To save an animal, especially one that’s not your animal and you have no connection to, really speaks to the character of the firefighters.”