ENOCH – An Enoch resident who lost at least 10 of her house cats in an apartment fire on Tuesday afternoon says the fact that the house flooded two days earlier was a blessing.
Michelle Pritchard stands on the front porch of her home, Enoch, Utah, August 5, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News
Michelle Pritchard, who lives in the house with her 84-year-old mother, said her mother was staying with a friend in Cedar City after the Sunday flood that dumped a significant amount of dammed sewage into her basement.
“She’s not very mobile so I stayed here in the house and took her to my friend’s house where they had an extra bedroom to put her in,” said Pritchard. “And that was a blessing because I don’t know if I could have got them out (from the fire).”
Pritchard said she stood on her porch early Tuesday afternoon while two flood workers who had just finished their lunch break put on their gear and prepared to enter the house to continue their work in the basement. Suddenly, unnoticed by them, a fire had broken out in the kitchen.
Pritchard, who neighbors say is a loving carer and rescuer of cats, told Cedar City News that when she opened the front door, a cloud of “big black toxic smoke” emanated from it.
In the moments of panic and chaos that followed, all nine of Pritchard’s dogs were able to exit the house safely, including two small dogs that had been in their mother’s bedroom and escaped through the porch window.
One of Pritchard’s neighbors, a retired firefighter, came running across the street and warned everyone not to go back inside. One of the breathing apparatus-equipped workers was able to grab some of the disoriented cats that were within reach, but some of the kittens eventually returned to the smoky building.
Later, when firefighters were fighting the fire in the house, they brought a few more animals outside and rescued a few more cats, as well as a soot-covered turtle named Myrtle that was still shaking its legs.
Michelle Pritchard holds her 19-year-old cat Kali Jane who survived a house fire in Enoch, Utah on August 3, 2021 | Photo courtesy Michelle Pritchard, St. George News / Cedar City News
Pritchard said she believed only four of the cats that were in the house survived. One of them, she confirmed, was her beloved older one-eyed cat named Kali Jane.
“She’s had well over nine lives, that’s for sure,” Pritchard said, noting that Kali had been left behind by the previous owner of the house when Pritchard moved in with her parents about 19 years ago.
“She’s been through the war and back and could tell a lot of stories if she could talk,” said Pritchard of the cat. “When I saw that she made it out of there, I just screamed. I couldn’t believe she made it. “
Some of her other cats are still missing, Pritchard said.
“I hope they came out, or maybe they are still hiding. I have put food and water in the house just in case. “
“They are just like my children,” says Pritchard, who was employed at the Enoch City animal shelter for nine years until she stopped working a few months ago for health reasons. “I don’t have human children, so all of these animals are my children.”
Additionally, a few outdoor cats that regularly come to feed on Pritchard’s front porch don’t seem any worse.
Two of them, Lovey and Frankie, were seen on and around the porch when Cedar City News interviewed Pritchard Thursday morning. Lovey lolled in a chair between some sheets of paper while Frankie crept around meowing loudly.
Pritchard said she also has two backyard goats and two exotic indoor birds that are all fine. Fortunately, all of these animals had already been temporarily relocated after the flood on Sunday.
Pritchard noted that the birds, a cockatoo and a double Amazon parrot, “would not have lasted two seconds” in the smoky house if they had been inside during the fire. It is believed that the 10 cats that perished all died of smoke inhalation.
Firefighters respond to a fire on Quick Draw Lane, Enoch, Utah, August 3, 2021 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News
Regarding the fire, Pritchard said she was initially concerned that items from the flooded basement that she piled on a counter near the stove might have kind of ignited, but she now believes the fire was due to it an electrical short circuit has occurred in a coffee machine. which she said wasn’t even on at the time.
Cedar City Fire Chief Mike Phillips told Cedar City News that the official cause of the fire was an accident, without elaborating on it.
Pritchard’s house is currently uninhabitable due to extensive repair and restoration work being done. A GoFundMe account was set up online by family member Susan Takano to help with recovery costs.
Pritchard says she is grateful to the emergency services and her neighbors for their efforts to help on Fire Day.
“I want to thank the Enoch police and all the firefighters, along with all of my neighbors who came and really helped, some of whom I haven’t even met,” she said.
Pritchard also thanked Chris Johnson, Enoch’s Animal Control Officer, for her efforts to ensure the safety and welfare of the surviving animals.
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Jeff Richards, a Salt Lake City native with Panguitch family roots, lived in Moab for 20 years before joining St. George News in 2017. Jeff is a longtime journalist and secondary school teacher. He and his wife Penny are parents to five daughters. They also have two young grandchildren. Jeff and his family enjoy swimming, camping, sightseeing, reading, and photography.