Ten cats are believed to have gotten out of a York Township apartment that was all but destroyed in a fire Thursday afternoon.
Andrew Laucks, who lives near the apartment and the attached garage in the 2400 block of Brillhart Station Road, said he saw smoke and flames coming from the building about 3:45 p.m. and ran to help.
He grabbed a garden hose and sprayed water on the flames that were shooting from the side of the building.
"It was pretty bad," he said of the flames.
Laucks opened a door and yelled into the apartment to make sure everyone was out of the building when about 10 cats ran past him and into the nearby woods.
"There were a lot of cats," he said.
Other neighbors and a passer-by who stopped used fire extinguishers to put out the fire but were unsuccessful.
Quickly under control: Shannon Blevins, Jacobus fire chief, confirmed all the cats likely got out. None were found inside the burned out building.
Despite winds that fed the flames, firefighters quickly had the fire under control.
"When we got there, there were flames shooting from the roof," Blevins said.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation by York Area Regional Police, the chief said it appears the fire was electrical in nature and started in the apartment.
"From what all I've seen, it's pointing towards a lamp," Blevins said.
Gary Phillips, who rented the apartment, said he believes a cat knocked over a lamp onto clothing.
No one was home at the time of the fire.
Relieved: Phillips said he left home about 1 p.m. to tend to his elderly neighbor.
He returned after getting a call from his landlord.
As he sat in an SUV with his mother, a teary-eyed Phillips looked on as firefighters tossed burned and smoldering furniture from the apartment. Another firefighter ripped apart the corrugated roof of the garage with a pike pole.
Phillips was relieved when he learned from Laucks that all the cats likely got out.
No injuries were reported in the blaze, and a damage estimate was not available Thursday night, Blevins said.
It may be some time before a damage estimate is available because the garage contained equipment and tools for a plumbing and heating business, Blevins said.
The York-Adams Chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting Phillips in getting clothing, but he's staying with family.
While Blevins commended the firefighting efforts of neighbors and the passer-by, he advised against others trying to put out large fires.
"I wouldn't advise it. We (firefighters) have the training and equipment to do it," he said. "Kudos to (the Good Samaritans). They gave it the good old college try."
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.