CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WWBT) - Seventeen cats are dead following a house fire at a South Chesterfield home Thursday night.
Chesterfield fire crews responded at 6:01 p.m. to the 2700 block of Milhorn Street for a reported fire.
“A number of cats died in the house,” said Lt. Jason Elmore. “They were fostering cats and had a total of 27 in the home.”
Shannon Squires, who lives at the home, said firefighters found 12 deceased cats while on scene.
“When we went to look around, we found five others under the bed,” Squires said.
Squires is still numb 24 hours after the fire ripped through the home she’s rented for four years.
She said she was on her way home from work when she neared her street and noticed black plumes of smoke.
“I pulled up and just started screaming for the cats,” she said.
Squires cared for roughly 27 cats, but for her they aren’t just friendly felines.
“I lost 17 of my kids last night,” she said. “I’m going to bury them all together,” she said. “I’m putting them some place, land that’s been in my family for a long time.”
Family, whether they be human, or feline.
“I’ve spent my whole life taking care of them,” Squires said.
Squires rescues cats, domesticating them and then putting them up for adoption.
Many of the cats she took in were from a colony in Colonial Heights, while some others were sent to other rescues. She was in the process of finding new homes for a handful of the 27 cats and kittens when fire blazed through her home.
“They had this whole street blocked off and we saw it engulfed in flames,” said Johnnie Boos, a neighbor.
Boos experienced a fire of her own a month ago, losing something she cared for deeply.
"I lost a bird,” she told Squires.
Heartbreak bringing these two women together.
“I understand,” Boos told Squires.
Officials believe the fire started in the master bedroom. An exact cause is still under investigation; however, it appears to be accidental.
Meanwhile, the flames left behind significant damage, but also some surprises.
"That's my mom and my dad in '67 and that picture survived in a drawer right next to where the fire started,” Squires said. “I don't understand how that happens."
While she’s thankful those pictures made it she said, “I’d rather have my babies.".
Seventeen were killed from the fire, eight were taken to Deep Run Animal Wellness for treatment.
“They’re a little worried about one, because he had a lot of smoke inhalation and he was unconscious when they brought him out, but we were able to get him back,” Squires said.
That’s where her focus is now, on the eight survivors. The community has already jumped on board to help those survivors, donating money towards the veterinary bill estimated to be in the thousands. As of 4 p.m. Friday the bill was paid off.
Now others, like Smitty’s Cat Rescue, are helping Squires track down her two missing cats.
“I guess [I’ll] keep coming back and hunting until my two little girls show back up when they're not afraid and get them," Squires said.
Squires, her husband, daughter, and mother were displaced from the home and are being helped by the American Red Cross.
Since the veterinary bill has been paid, Lynne Layton has created a donation page to help Squires and her family get back on her feet.
“Our biggest need now is funds for mattresses and we’re still looking for a house as well,” Squires said.
For more information on how to help the family, click here.
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