With flames and smoke billowing from her neighbor's Anaheim apartment Tuesday morning, Darcel Blanas suddenly remembered the pets trapped inside.
In two trips through choking smoke, she rescued her neighbor's dog, Shauna, and her bird, Blondie. But Boo-Boo, her neighbor's pet cat of 11 years, couldn't be found on Blanas' third and last trip. The cat evidently had tried to escape the heat by fleeing to an upstairs bedroom, where she died.
"I didn't even think about myself," Blanas said later, standing outside the charred garage shortly after firefighters had put out the blaze.
Fire officials said the cause of the 7:16 a.m. blaze, which gutted Apartment D in a complex in the 2800 block of East Jackson Avenue, remains under investigation.
Six fire engines and two trucks answered the two-alarm fire, which caused an estimated $90,000 damage to the apartment unit and attached garage, plus $10,000 damage to the contents. An adjacent unit suffered minor water damage. One neighbor was treated for minor smoke inhalation, officials said.
The apartment occupants--Larry and Darlene Skelton and their teen-age son, Robert--were inside the unit when the fire started but escaped without harm, neighbors said.
Carmen Cox, another neighbor, said she rushed outside after hearing an explosion and saw the Skeltons' garage on fire. As she turned a garden hose on the spreading flames, her roommate, Blanas, rushed in to rescue the animals.
A second explosion sent aerosol cans flying out of a garage trash can and knocked her to the ground, she said.
The fire consumed all the product samples of Larry Skelton, a part-time Fuller brush salesman, and destroyed all his business records, which his wife had kept stored in the family computer, Cox said.
The Skeltons would probably be staying with her Tuesday night, Cox said.
Cox said Darlene Skelton has been a close friend for the past nine years. After the fire, Skelton came up to her crying, "What about my cat, what about my cat?"
Cox said she put her arm around her distraught friend and volunteered to give her one of her three cats.