1 woman hurt, 1 cat jumps to safety in fire

March 18, 1992|By Roger Twigg and David Michael Ettlin | Roger Twigg and David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writers chB

A 67-year-old woman was hospitalized for burns and smoke inhalation yesterday as the result of a two-alarm blaze that forced the evacuation of a four-story downtown apartment building.

Most of the 14 people who lived in the building at 816 Park Ave. were not at home when the fire broke out shortly before 1:30 p.m. A cat stranded on a top-floor window ledge stunned bystanders with a dramatic four-story, 30-foot leap to safety after a firefighter grabbed its tail.

Capt. Ronald Baker, a city Fire Department investigator, said the blaze was sparked by a malfunction in an electrical circuit box in the basement hallway of the Park Tower Apartments.

Sanella G. Kief, who lived in a basement apartment, was listed in serious but stable condition last night at University of Maryland Medical Center, where she was being treated for facial burns and smoke inhalation, a spokeswoman said.

The fire left an estimated $30,000 in damage. The tenants of the 10 occupied apartments were offered assistance by their landlord and by the American Red Cross.

Charlie -- a 15-pound, former stray cat adopted more than a year ago by a third-floor tenant, Claire Acey -- was home alone. Apparently frightened as firefighters chopped a hole through the bedroom ceiling to ventilate the building, the cat fled to a front window ledge, and then leaped from a firefighter's grasp.

"He's scared of people. I think that's why he ended up jumping," Ms. Acey said.

Charlie landed on the concrete sidewalk and ran under a parked car before being captured by a neighbor. The animal was reported in stable condition last night at the Falls Road Animal Hospital, where same-name veterinarian Dr. Charlie Weiss said the cat was being treated for smoke inhalation and a fractured pelvis.

"It's amazing how he was able to run around," Dr. Weiss said, explaining that cats and other animals in shock -- including humans -- "have natural endorphins which are released from the central nervous system. It's just like painkillers. They don't even know they're hurt."

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