A San Jose woman narrowly escaped a fire that broke out overnight after her dog woke her up and alerted her to flames in her bedroom. Unfortunately for Carole Miller of Polvadero Drive, officials were delayed in arriving at her home because her smoke detector failed to go off, and the fire tragically consumed more than 100 cats she had been caring for.
According to a CBS affiliate in San Francisco, the San Jose Fire Department received a report of the one-alarm fire at 1:45 a.m. Fire crews were able to successfully remove seven cats and one dog, but 93 cats that Miller cared for in her home -- she operates animal rescue “colonies” that spay and neuters stray dogs on the Stanford University campus and in the South Bay -- died from smoke inhalation.
“I’m just stunned,” Miller told KGO-TV. “I’m stunned at the fear and suffering of my animals. ... They are my life … This is my worst nightmare.”
Miller told reporters that she had tried to evacuate her home by herself but got stuck inside of a fenced in enclosure she had built for her cats. Emergency crews eventually managed to cut open the fence and pulled her to safety.
“I don’t allow, candles, matches, no Christmas trees, anything,” she added. “I am so careful. And this is my worst nightmare. I just don’t know where to go from here.”
But Reggie Williams, Captain of the San Jose Fire Department said that Miller is lucky to have escaped the blaze with her life. “Tonight a lot of things went in her favor,” Williams said. “Had the dog not woke her up, she may not have been able to get out of this fire.”
“She had a smoke detector but for some reason it didn’t work,” Williams added. “The dog alerted her.”
Williams added that the large quantity of animals inside Miller’s home made it difficult for firefighters to put out the flames. “There were multiple, multiple animals we had to get over to fight the fire,” he said. “I’ve never witnessed this many animals in a single home…There were more than 100 cats.”
Miller’s neighbor Deborah Garcia, said that others on the street could hear the cats crying out during the fire. "Unfortunately we could hear them screaming. So it was devastating," Garcia said.
Fire officials said they are still working to determine the cause of the fire.
View a video report below.