BANGOR, Maine — Princess Tiger Lily, the cat whom Amy Littlefield and Bill Watson couldn’t find when they ran from their burning Center Street apartment on Monday morning, survived the fire that destroyed half of the couple’s home.
As the pair searched for the cat Monday evening in the unburned front portion of their apartment, “she came out from underneath the couch,” Watson said Tuesday.
The rear of the couple’s apartment was gutted by the fire.
“Everything from our back hallway back is gone,” Watson said. “Our bedroom is gone.”
The engaged couple lived on the second floor of 240 Center St. and awoke early Monday to a downstairs neighbor yelling, “Call 911! Call 911!”
They were able to grab two cats, Hope and Isis, but the invading smoke forced them to leave without Princess Tiger Lily.
“By the time we called 911, the flames were everywhere,” Littlefield said Monday. “We couldn’t see. We grabbed the cats and we ran.”
The fire was reported at 7:45 a.m. Monday and destroyed the back portion of the five-unit, 2½-story apartment building, Assistant Fire Chief Darrell Cyr, who was the fire scene commander, said Monday.
The fire appears to have started on the first floor of the back portion of the building and quickly spread as it traveled through all kinds of nooks and crannies within the building, he said.
“The back part is pretty much gutted,” Cyr said.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office was called in to investigate the cause of the fire, and investigators spent Monday afternoon going through the debris. Sgt. Tim York of the fire marshal’s office said Tuesday afternoon that more interviews need to be done to determine the cause.
“Center Street is still under investigation,” he said.
Luckily for Princess Tiger Lily, firefighters were able to save the front portion of the structure.
Littlefield and Watson were allowed back into their apartment at about 5 p.m. Monday with a warning to avoid the back portion, which was destroyed by the fast-moving blaze.
“We wanted to look for the cat,” Watson said.
The front part of the apartment, which included the kitchen and living room, had a lot of water damage and broken windows and a layer of thick ash had settled over everything, he said.
While the couple searched for the cat, they picked up clothing and a couple of undamaged Christmas presents that Littlefield had bought for her children. The fire destroyed most of the presents, but a few toys survived, Watson said.
“We walked into the living room and were calling [the cat’s] name as we grabbed stuff,” Watson said. “We were calling for her and calling for her.”
All hopes of finding her alive were lost as the couple started for the door, but the striped feline surprised them by slipping out from underneath the couch at the last second when Watson said, “We’re leaving.”
Littlefield said she asked for a Christmas miracle and was given one when Princess Tiger Lily surfaced unharmed.
With years of fighting fires under his belt, Cyr said his experience is that scared felines often hide.
“Cats hide and come out when they’re comfortable,” he said.
Littlefield and Watson are among 11 people displaced by the fire. The Pine Tree Chapter of the American Red Cross is paying for nine of them to stay at the Fireside Inn and is providing other assistance as well.
The couple’s cats are staying at a friend’s house until they get another apartment, Watson said.