Purrrfect rescue by Great Yarmouth firefighters

SCOOPED to safety by the gloved hands of a firefighter, they emerged shaking, their eyes blinking in the light and their soft fur damp with oil.

For these three kittens, it was the end to a four-hour saga that had tested the skills, ingenuity and technology of the team out to rescue them. And for a number of the those involved in what started out as a routine job, it may just be the beginning of a beautiful pet-owner relationship.

The Great Yarmouth fire team were called out to the South Quay offices of chartered accountants M Hoose & Coy at around midday late last week after staff had become distressed over plaintive mewing emerging from an outbuilding housing two oiltanks.

Linda Hollowell was one of the first to become aware of a strange cat.

She told The Mercury: “Me and my colleague first heard her, so I glanced up at the window and there was a cat on the windowsill.

“When I went out the back door, I could hear the meowing but this time it was awful and desperate, but I couldn’t see it.”

Linda, of Ormesby St Michael, thought the cat must have fallen through a hole in the roof of the oiltank shed after leaping from the windowframe and she explained: “I couldn’t work. The noise it was making was so pitiful.”

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Having been called in, a team of firefighters used hacksaws to cut a bigger hole into the felt and wood roof to access the outbuilding, which housed the oiltanks.

And it was after help from the the Urban Search and Rescue Team (USRT), who brought in hi-tech cameras and equipment to move one of the tanks, it seemed their job was done.

“We were using high pressure air bags to move the tanks” said Yarmouth firefighters watch manager Alan Jaye, “when the cat decided to squeeze down the side of the tank, jump on to a ledge then jump up out of the hole. It had scarpered!”

However, their job certainly was not done, as a scan using one of the USRT’s cameras showed.

Alan explained: “Huddled away in a corner were three little kittens, who must have got oil on them when we cut a pipe between the tanks earlier to move it.”

So began the steady process of trying to coax out the terrified animals, believed to be the litter of the escaped cat, on to an improvised cat-catcher made of plastic, and lowered on to the floor.

Attached to each corner was a piece of string, the top of which was held by a fireman on the roof above.

The trap proved effective, and soon the kittens, slick with oil and mewling, were pulled out to be cared for by the office team following the drama.

Linda and her colleagues were waiting.

She said: “They were cold and shaky but we were pleased to see them out. We wrapped them up in towels and used kitchen roll to get the oil off. I must say though I’m not a cat lover, I was tempted to see if I could take one home.”

For watch manager Mr Jaye, who was there for four hours with fellow rescuers and who has two cats already, it has proved to be more than just a temptation.

He said: “At the moment they are being looked at by vets, but me and two others have agreed we would like to adopt one each if we can – I guess I’m soppy when it comes to cats.”