Ruth Ptak loves her pets. So much so, she refused to leave her home without them Saturday, even when it was on fire.
Payson Police officers were forced to pull Ptak out of the burning home and lock her in a squad car, but firefighters were able to successfully save her three dogs, three cats and one fish.
Now Ptak is desperately searching for two cats that managed to escape the hotel she was staying at on Sunday after the fire, and hopes someone will spot the friendly felines around town.
Ptak, 74, says on the day of the fire she went to the store and returned around 3 p.m. While her pets were sleeping, she decided to play some Scrabble on the computer.
“I had just done three games and Minny started meowing like crazy and I looked out the window and I almost died when I saw the house on fire,” Ptak said.
“I went back, turned off the computer and tried to call the fire department, and by then the neighbor started pounding on the door. I went back in again to get the pets and that is when the dining room window exploded and the smoke and fire started coming in.”
Around 4:30 p.m. Saturday, the Payson Fire Department received a call that a doublewide mobile home was on fire in the 400 block of East Jura Circle, said Chief Marty deMasi.
When firefighters arrived, a fire near the carport was spreading quickly to the inside of the home, but Ptak refused to leave the residence without her pets.
“She was not going to leave the house until the animals were safe,” deMasi said.
Sgt. Dean Faust with the Payson Police Department went into the home and with the help of other officers removed Ptak uninjured.
“We usually don’t like to encourage anyone to go into a burning home,” deMasi said. “But the lady did not want to leave the building and when he first called for her, she went back into the home.”
Ptak said after she was taken out of the home, she was locked in the back of a patrol car for two hours to prevent her from going back into the house.
“I probably would have gone back in,” she joked.
Firefighters rescued the remaining pets, which had hidden themselves throughout the trailer.
Firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to locate the remaining pets under the bed.
While firefighters were inside rescuing pets, firefighters on the outside were fighting the fire and were able to contain it within 30 minutes and save the structure from burning to the ground. deMasi estimates the fire caused around $55,000 in damages.
The fire likely started near a firewood stack from improperly disposed of ashes, deMasi said.
“She probably thought they were cold ashes and put them in the trash container,” deMasi said. “You have got to be real careful with ashes, they can stay hot for awhile.”
When Kathleen Kelly of the American Red Cross arrived on scene, Ptak was huddled in the back of a police car with her pets.
“I was able to find a hotel in town that would take Ptak and her family of pets for the night,” Kelly said.
“When we respond to house fires, we take care of families, but it is hard to place pets.”
The Best Western of Payson put Ptak and her pets up for the night, but on Sunday morning when Ptak took the dogs out for a walk, two of the cats, Minny and Patrick, ran out of the room and have been missing since.
“They may try to return to her burned out home on Jura Circle,” Kelly said.
Kelly says the pets are very important to Ptak, who considers them family.
“Sometimes pets are the only family people have. Pets give so much comfort to those going through trauma,” she said.
Minny is described as a 3-year-old white Burmese with long fur. She has blue eyes and gray ears, face and tail and looks like a Siamese cat.
Patrick is a year old and has short orange fur with tan stripes.
“She’s friendly, but she may be skittish after the fireman accidentally sprayed her with the hose,” Kelly said.
If you spot Minny or Patrick, call Ptak at (928) 478-8938.