Firefighters rescue kitten after search of home’s heating ducts

From left, firefighters Ryle Fitzegerald, Alex Torregino and Sam Pacholuk with the rescued kitten named Bear. Photo courtesy of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

By the Daily Post staff

Menlo Park firefighters rescued a kitten who had crawled into a missing heater register and dropped into ducting beneath a home under construction on Gordon Avenue in Menlo Park.

After a call Tuesday from a worried resident, acting Capt. Dave Bragg and the crew of Menlo Engine 3 arrived at the house and, after talking to the resident, determined that the kitten named Bear was somewhere under the single-story, 1,800-square-foot home in the heater ducting that ran the length of the house. The ducting could only be reached through an 18-inch crawl space.

The big question was where was the kitten?

Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said that Bragg called upon his construction background and had the resident turn on the HVAC system’s fan so air could pass through each vent register. Using tissue paper to monitor air flow, they located the exact duct that both had an obstruction, which limited air flow, and smelled like cat, the chief said.

Firefighters Alex Torregino and Sam Pacholuk worked their way across the length of the home in the tiny crawl space, carefully cutting open sections of the duct work in search of the “catty kitten” who had decided to now go silent, Schapelhouman explained. After two hours of crawling, opening and searching the duct work under the house, they located Bear at almost the farthest point from where he had entered the duct work.

“People often joke with us about cats in trees, but actually many, if not most, of our animal rescues are from pipes and sub-surface crawl spaces and areas that animals get themselves trapped in,” said Schapelhouman.

“Curiosity did not injure or kill this cat today,” the chief said. “But the homeowner is going to need to hire a repair person to fix the heater ducting, as careful as the firefighters were … Bear lived up to his name today when it came to this rescue, but the good news is he’s doing just fine now, thanks to the patient and persistent efforts of our firefighters.”