Firefighter rescues pets

After flames from a Monday garage fire spread and nearly destroyed Victoria Farris’ home, the southeast Columbus woman was crying — in gratitude.

That’s because one firefighter managed to defy the odds and rescue all three of Farris’ cats — one-by-one — from the burning house.

Columbus Fire Department spokesman Capt. Mike Wilson said both structures were near total losses. No injuries were reported.

Firefighters were called to 52 S. Cherry St. about 1 p.m., Wilson said. The house is about five houses north of the Bartholomew County 911 Emergency Operations Center.

The fire, which started in a detached two-vehicle garage next to the yellow, one-story frame house, erupted after homeowner Ethan Crippen parked his motorcycle inside his garage after a noon ride, Wilson said.

Crippen, 23, said he had only been home about 10 minutes when he started hearing popping sounds coming from outside the house, Wilson said.

“When he opened the garage, he saw it was filled with smoke, so he ran to a neighbor’s house and called 911,” Wilson said.

The garage was in flames before firefighters arrived on the scene, according to Fire Chief Dave Allmon. “It had already spread to the back of the house when we arrived,” the fire chief said.

When Farris, 21, arrived to see smoke pouring out of her house, she had to be restrained to keep her from trying to rescue her cats, Wilson said.

During the next 45 minutes, firefighter Jerry Shoaf was able to find each one of the cats and rescue them, Allmon said.

“It’s small miracles like this that mean so much to families who have just suffered a devastating loss,” he said.

The garage and contents, including the motorcycle, were a complete loss, while damage to the residence was extensive, Wilson said.

Estimated damages for structure and contents is $95,000, Wilson said. Damage to two vehicles, including the motorcycle, is believed to be at about $5,000, he added.

What exactly started the fire is still under investigation, Allmon said.

With flames showing at both ends of the house, firefighters removed the upper siding and walls above the front entrance to ensure the flames were completely extinguished, Allmon said.

In addition, two neighboring homes were damaged by the fire. Siding and electrical damage to 102 S. Cherry is estimated at $3,000, while siding damage to 42 S. Cherry is expected to cost $1,000 to repair, Wilson said.

Fire officials said the home was insured, and the couple has temporary lodging with family members.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.