Gulfport Firefighters Save Family Cat From Fire; Local Vet Cannot Treat It

Cathy Salustri


Gulfport Firefighters Save Family Cat From Fire; Local Vet Cannot Treat It | fire,gulfport,marenkovic,cathy salustri,tim burton,christopher mathis,cat,mask,oxygen

Gulfport firefighter paramedics Christopher Mathis and Timothy Burton administer oxygen to Blazer, one of two McKnight cats. Firefighters found Blazer "posturing" (flexing his limbs), which indicated the cat had suffered heavily from smoke inhalation.

Photo by Jim Marenkovic.

Blazer McKnight, a nine-year-old black cat with a fluffy white chest, survived a garage fire thanks to local firefighters. Friday morning, Gulfport Fire Department's Engine 17, joined by South Pasadena and St. Petersburg firefighters, put out a garage fire at 4815 29th Avenue South. The fire spread to the kitchen and the sunporch, according to Gulfport fire chief Jim Marenkovic. Firefighters also safely evacuated Mr. and Mrs. McKnight family with no injuries. 

After getting the humans safely out of the home, Mrs. McKnight told firefighters their two cats were inside the home. Firefighters returned to the home and found Blazer under a bed, "overcome with smoke and crying very little," Chief Marenkovic said.

Firefighters could not locate the family's second cat. They treated Blazer with oxygen, using a face mask designed for small animals. Although the fire department budget does not include such masks – which often can only get used one time – someone donated several and firefighters had one on hand to use on Blazer.

The McKnight family attempted to bring Blazer to Gulfport Veterinarian, but were turned away. The Gabber called Gulfport Veterinarian to find out why they did not treat the family pet; a woman who refused to identify herself said they couldn't treat the cat because "the cat needed to be in an oxygen tank until the lungs were cleared up," and said they sent the cat to an emergency veterinarian. When the Gabber asked the woman on the phone to identify herself, she refused to provide a name.

"I'm not giving you my name, I'm not going to be printed in some paper. I don't care who you are," the woman said.

St. Pete Beach Vet on Gulf Boulevard said they would not have necessarily turned away the pet, although they do not have a dedicated oxygen chamber.

Although the fire's cause remained undetermined as of Friday afternoon, Chief Marenkovic tells the Gabber he does not suspect arson.

"It appears to be accidental," he said.

The McKnight family appears to be "coping with the destruction and the loss," he said, adding that Blazer was doing a bit better Friday afternoon.