Chyna's singed whiskers and blistered ears and paws tell the tale of how at least one of this cat's nine lives was used up surviving Monday's fire in Central Point.
The 9-year-old Burmese, along with 8-year-old Domino, a black and white cat, leaped to safety from the balcony of Chelsea and Daniel Farina's Village Drive condo as flames billowed out the roof and smoke filled their lungs, said Sheri Larkin, the mother of Chelsea Farina.
Now the two cats are being treated for smoke inhalation at Siskiyou Veterinary Hospital in Medford. Chyna has a singed coat with second-degree burns on both ears and both right feet. Domino is in better shape with no burns, Larkin said.
The cause of the fire that torched the Farinas' unit, and also did damage to the condo of an elderly woman below, remains unknown, but the investigation is ongoing, said Don Hickman, spokesman for Jackson County Fire District No. 3. Extensive damage to the upper unit's overhanging deck required its removal, temporarily delaying further investigation, he said late Tuesday.
The 24-unit condo complex is in a neighborhood north of Beall Lane and west of Interstate 5.
The couple and their 4-month-old newborn baby were safely across town when their condo burst into flames, Larkin said. But on Sunday night, they had all been together at the condo for a Mother's Day dinner, she said.
Larkin suspects the unit's heat pump is the culprit that caused flames to lick at her daughter's cats and send a tower of smoke spiraling into the sky. Medford Fire-Rescue and District 3 responded with six engines and 22 firefighters shortly before 9 a.m.
"I was there Sunday night," Larkin said, adding the weather was balmy enough that Daniel Farina turned off the air conditioning.
The heat pump, located in the attic, turned itself back on, she said. Farina turned it off again. Larkin noted the smell of "burning rubber." But no one realized the significance of those clues, she said.
"Now we're suspecting it was the heat pump," Larkin said. "They'd been having problems with it."
Another neighbor has since said that she, too, smelled something burning late that night. And a young boy reported seeing "flames in the attic," Larkin said.
"I'm suspecting it smoldered all night," Larkin said.
Gina Grove, 90, who lives in the unit below the Farinas, first spotted the flames Monday morning when they were reflected in a black Isuzu Rodeo parked outside her condo. Initially thinking the SUV was on fire, Grove was shocked to realize the condo above her was aflame.
Larkin said Wednesday she was glad Grove made it safely out of her condo without injury Monday morning. The kitchen window, where Grove was making breakfast, exploded soon after.
Firefighters responded to the blaze at 8:50 a.m. A thick plume of brown smoke towered into the air and could be seen and smelled from Medford, Hickman said. When firefighters arrived, they could hear smoke alarms blaring. They were told all humans had safely evacuated.
Grove's young black and white Chihuahua, Mickey, was still trapped inside, Hickman said. Firefighters used infrared heat detectors to locate Mickey through the thick smoke. The little black and white dog was discovered hiding under a bed, and Grove's eyes welled with tears as firefighters placed Mickey safely back in her arms.
Grove said her cat, Larry, was missing. But Larry, whom neighbors described as an orange and white feline with a distinctive curly tail, was safely outside when the fire started, she said. Larkin said the cat has since been seen in the area.
The Farinas' third pet, a bearded dragon lizard, did not survive the fire, Larkin said, adding her daughter is still too distraught to talk publicly about the family's loss of pet and home. But they are all grateful for the kindness of friends and neighbors who have pitched in to help them replace their belongings, Larkin said.
"The baby was just wearing a onesie," Larkin said. "But we've been inundated with baby clothes and adult clothes."
Good Samaritans donated bouncers, swings and high chairs, too, she said.
The couple purchased and moved into their condo in December. They do have fire insurance, and have received some emergency cash from the company to find temporary accommodations until their condo can be rebuilt, Larkin said.
Daniel Farina works as a pharmacy technician at a local hospital. Chelsea stays home with the baby, and will have her hands full rebuilding their home, Larkin said. Help with the cats' vet bills would be appreciated, she said. Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact Siskiyou Veterinary Hospital, 100 W. Stewart Ave., Medford, or call 541-773-1335.
If donation amounts surpass the costs of the cats' veterinary care, Larkin said the family would like Siskiyou to use it to help pay the bills for others who may be struggling, too.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.