Dozens of cats perished in a house fire early Saturday morning in East Brainerd, authorities said, though the homeowners got out safely.
The fire at 1106 Elaine Trail was reported shortly after 1 a.m., Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman Bruce Garner said in a news release. A couple and their two sons escaped the blaze, but firefighters stumbled over piles of stuff and more than 50 cats as they went in to battle the flames, Garner said. It took 30 to 45 minutes to get the fire out.
Garner said the department could not release the family's name Saturday night, but they were renting the house.
Only 17 cats survived the fire, said Karen Walsh, executive director of the McKamey Animal Center. Of the survivors, some suffered burns. Others were right next to the firefighters' hoses as they put out the flames. Those cats got soaked in near-freezing temperatures.
Those cats suffered shock, Walsh said, but she thinks all the cats will recover.
Walsh said officers from the animal center arrived at the scene Saturday morning and determined the house to be a hoarding situation, which means those in the house have more animals than they can take care of. The family may face citations for animal neglect, Walsh said, but the animal center's investigation is still open.
"It's hard to tell from the fire's impact," she said, "but from what we saw, there were portions of the house covered completely in feces."
Such a living situation is harmful, Walsh said, because feces raises ammonia levels, which makes breathing difficult.
The McKamey Animal Center is accepting contributions to help care for the cats recovered from the fire. Donate money at www.mckameyanimalcenter.org.
A man and woman died, and a female toddler went to a hospital after a crash on Interstate 59 on Saturday afternoon, according to a WRCB-TV report.
Witnesses said a silver car sped through traffic driving north before the car slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer in Trenton, Ga. The toddler was airlifted to a local hospital, and the interstate was shut down for several hours.
One lane of traffic opened around 4 p.m.
The Georgia State Patrol could not provide further information Saturday night.