The nonprofit Pet Alliance of Orlando suffered a devastating late-night fire on Wednesday, September 15, 2021. The organization is Central Florida’s oldest and largest animal welfare agency, established in 1937 as the Orlando Humane Society.
Flames reaching 30 feet high shot out of the 5,000-square-foot complex after a fire started in the clinic area. Then, a roof collapsed, impeding efforts to get inside the maze-like layout. Notably, the clinic was scheduled to close the following Friday due to a staffing shortage.
For director Steve Bardy and all the volunteers who work each day to save animals, it was their worst nightmare.
Amazingly, Orange County Fire Rescue rescued all 26 dogs and 45 cats from the building according to one report. Getting the dogs out was easier since they were in an area where the fire hadn’t yet reached.
Astonishingly, the morning after the blaze, rescuers amazingly saved three more cats hiding in the rubble. However, the entire building was a total loss, and 23 cats lost their lives. Fortunately, half of the Pet Alliance animals were in foster care at the time of the blaze, and nobody was working at the time.
Meanwhile, the state began investigating the source of the fire. Unfortunately, there were no fire sprinklers since the building was built in 1989 when it wasn’t required. Hopefully this tragedy will incite the county to change their inspection requirements.
Firefighters, the sheriff’s department, animal services, and the facility all worked together to rescue as many animals as they possibly could.
Firefighter Adopts a Cat the Survived the Flames
As noted, on Thursday morning, rescuers pulled several cats out alive from the rubble. Below, we see one of the cats that somehow managed to hide from the fire, emerging alive. In this case, one of the Pet Alliance of Orlando’s workers moved the cat to safety. (see the video at the end of this article)
Mia the Tabby
Among the first responders was firefighter Brett Maneri, a dog and cat lover. One of the surviving cats included Mia, a brown and orange marbled Tabby. Mia was able to hide from the fire behind a cat condo. Immediately after meeting the cat, the firefighter said he fell in love with her. She was the last cat rescued that day.
“We picked out three this morning,” he recalled. “One pregnant one, Mia, and another one,” Maneri told WFTV9.
“We picked her up, and after that it was just it,” he recalled. “She was a lover, I could tell she was so scared and timid… [I] kind of just fell in love with her.”
🐾♥️🐈 It was Mia, a pregnant brown & orange tabby, who caught his attention. Firefighter / #hero @Brett_Maneri said they found the kitty hiding behind a cat condo. “I kind of just fell in love with her.“ https://t.co/GO9gm8IAOA
— The Oval Pawffice® 🇺🇸 DOTUS Fans (@TheOvalPawffice) September 17, 2021
Soon after meeting the firefighter, Mia and the other rescued animals went to the Pet Alliance’s Sanford location. So, Maneri went straight over after he clocked out on Thursday. Then, he signed the adoption papers for Mia.
“I came straight here, and now she’s coming home with me,” Maneri said, smiling. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime fire. It breaks our heart driving up to the scene and knowing what it is… our whole goal was to search every corner to find at least one.”
Now, Maneri says he’s happy to provide a good home for Mia. In the meantime, the other surviving animals are being medically evaluated and will receive any care they need.
An Outpouring of Support for the Pet Alliance of Orlando
Following the tragic fire, the Pet Alliance experienced an outpouring of support from the Orange County communities. Officials say they have received truckloads of supplies. Fortunately, others donated warehouse space to house the tons of donated goods. Also, cash donations topped over $500,000 so far, which will help build the new location expected to cost millions.
Donations can be made on the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando website.
Below, see Mia the cat exploring her new home.
More about the story about the Pet Alliance of Orlando from WFTV9: