FORT MCMURRAY, CANADA – For one Fort McMurray cat, it turned out that the best place to ride out a raging wildfire was inside a stove.
Jody Lishchynsky states that’s where firefighters found her black cat Tux when they were going through the rubble of what used to be her house.
From what she understands now, firefighters are speculating an explosion inside the home might have blown out the stove glass, and Tux crawled inside. Then yet another blast or something else caused the appliance to topple onto its side, trapping Tux while simultaneously protecting him from the flames.
Lishchynsky says the day the fire honed in on her neighborhood in the northern Alberta city was sheer chaos. She had heard neighborhoods near where she lived were actually being evacuated, so she headed home to pick up her son and start boxing up photos and other important documents.
“We gathered for about 15 minutes. We had a nice pile of photos in the kitchen, ready to go,” she says. But then, “the wind shifted, and it jumped the highway. It came down over our hill in minutes. We had to run. We weren’t expecting it at all.”
She, her son, her roommate and her brother all jumped into their truck, along with the family dog, with only what they had in their arms. The photos, the documents and a total of four of their cats all had to be left behind.
“I didn’t take the chance of going back in the house for anything,” she says. “It was coming too fast.”
Her brother stopped just long enough to help a neighbor get an elderly relative out of a home. “There were flames coming in the window already,” says Lishchynsky, adding they couldn’t really see the road, just blackness and fire.
They headed over to her brother’s cabin in Boyle, Alta., where they’ve set up a temporary home.
Lishchynsky says she was looking on social media when she saw pictures of a firefighter cradling a black cat with his paws bandaged, and realized it was Tux.
“Holy smokes,” she stated. “He looked so dirty in the picture, and had no whiskers.”
Through more digging, she found out they had also rescued another one of her cats, named Sky, though the other two cats were not found.
Late this week, she went to the Lac La Biche Humane Society and was finally reunited with Tux and Sky — whom firefighters had nicknamed Toast and Singe.
Sky lost most of her fur and Tux is now wearing a cone while his paws, which sustained burns on the bottom, heal.
As for her future, she’s remaining somewhat optimistic. Losing her cherished photos and mementos stings the worst — “You can build another house, but you can’t replace some of that stuff” — but her 12-year-old son, Landon O’Neill is now helping her get through it. For Mother’s Day, he got her a keepsake ring and told her it was to help her re-start her collection again.
And it helps to laugh, which Lishchynsky does when she thinks of her beloved cat’s bizarre tale of survival.
“I don’t know why that fireman looked in that stove,” she stated. “That’s just beyond me. Sure enough, there’s the little frigger.”