ALPENA TOWNSHIP - A woman escaped unharmed from a basement fire that took the lives of her family's cats late Friday morning.
Firefighters arrived to find flames showing through a basement window and smoke coming out of the eaves of a single-story house on Lake Winyah Road shortly before 11 a.m., said Capt. Bruce Honeycutt of the Alpena Township Fire Department. Personnel from the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center's fire crew assisted in extinguishing the blaze and venting the smoke from the basement, as did Maple Ridge and City of Alpena fire departments.
Jeanna Wirgau was the only one home when the fire broke out, she said. She had gone downstairs to clean the litter boxes for her family's three cats when she heard a loud crack and saw sparks. The washing machine and an artificial Christmas tree then caught fire.
"I knew I had to get out of there," she said. "We didn't have a fire extinguisher down there or anything."
While Wirgau escaped the blaze, her family's three cats weren't so lucky. Honeycutt said firefighters found three imprints where the cats had died. A pet turtle was unharmed.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Honeycutt said, adding an estimated value of the damage it caused wasn't available as of Friday afternoon. The fire did moderate damage to the house, and it should be repairable.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.