Family cats perish in house fires

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

By BILLY BRUCE, Staff Writer

A Marco Island family lost its home and two pets to a fire early Saturday morning. But the mild chirping of a smoke detector may have saved their lives, Marco Island Fire and Rescue personnel said.

Anthony Schmalz, 40, of 357 Columbus Way, told rescue personnel he was in his bedroom with his wife, Peggy, 40, at about midnight Friday, when he heard a smoke detector chirping. Schmalz went into the living room and saw a fire on the stove in the kitchen, Marco Fire Chief Mike Murphy said.

Schmalz then alerted his son, Christopher Kneipp, 16, who was in another bedroom. Peggy and Christopher left the house. Schmalz tried to go into the home and find something to stop the fire, but the flames, heat and smoke were too intense, Murphy said.

Fire and rescue units from Marco, Isles of Capri and East Naples arrived on the scene within minutes. Upon their arrival, they found smoke coming from all sides of the roof facia venting. Inside, fire and smoke were spreading. Firefighters had the fire under control within 16 minutes after arriving, a Marco fire department report stated.

Schmalz and family told the firefighters that four cats and a dog were inside the home. Firefighters searched the house and found two cats dead. The dog and another cat were safe. A neighbor spotted another cat running from the house. That cat had not returned to the house as of Tuesday, Murphy said.

The fire caused an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 in damage. Representatives from the American Red Cross were on the scene to help the Schmalz family find temporary lodging until a fire restoration company can repair the home.

The fire was caused by a pot that had been left on an active burner on the kitchen stove, Murphy said