01/15/18 — After fire, lost pets matter more than possessions

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After fire, lost pets matter more than possessions

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 15, 2018 5:50 AM

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Brandi Steinhilber holds Godric, the only one of her five rescue cats to survive a fire last Monday that destroyed the home she shares with her fiancé, Taylor Mills.

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Taylor Mills and Brandi Steinhilber hold their rescue pets that were saved when a fire destroyed their home last Monday. From left the pets are Cassie, Copper and Godric. Two pet turtles also survived the fire.

Gypsy, Nugget, Kahmi and Coon.

Brandi Steinhilber's voice cracks with emotion as she calls the names of her cats that died when fire destroyed the home she shares with her fiancé, Taylor Mills.

But she is thankful for Godric, who survived, along with two dogs and two turtles.

"They were our babies," she said. "I understand firemen are not supposed to risk their lives to save animals. I understand that. But they meant more to us than anything in that house did."

Gypsy was her late great-grandmother's cat; the others were rescue animals.

Nugget had been found in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant. Kahmi had been found in the street by a friend and brought to the couple.

Coon, who was less than a year old, got her name because of her resemblance to a raccoon.

"Losing her (Gypsy) and them bringing her out to me first, seeing that was one that was gone is the one that kind of made me fall to my knees and scream," she said.

"I rescued all of my babies, and I feel like I have let them all down really bad. "We lost everything. We were able to get our two dogs out, and we were able to get our two turtles, but we weren't able to go in and get them until after. Thankfully they went under water and survived."

Steinhilber and Mills were able to get the dogs out before the fire department arrived.

"EMS pulled in and we were trying to get our last dog out and they were yelling at us to get out of the house," she said.

The dog was shivering and in a panic so the couple had to go in and get her out.

Godric sat in the car for 30 minutes or so after being rescued from the house.

When Steinhilber went to check on him, he was salivating "really bad." That is when she asked EMS to give him oxygen.

Another cat was brought out, but no one helped her.

"She passed away in my arms," Steinhilber said.

Steinhilber said she is not planning on getting more cats just yet.

"For right now, I think we are just going to try to spoil our one," she said. "He seems to try and make up for the ones that we lost. We find him doing things that he never used to do before.

"Maybe we are just trying to see the other cats in him or what. But he seems to try to do things that each one of them used to kind of do."

Steinhilber and Mills were not home when the fire broke out last Monday at their home at 421 Charlie Braswell Road.

"We came back, and we saw two people running around our house," she said. "I said, 'Who is that at our house?' We pulled underneath the carport and hadn't seen the smoke yet.

"Somebody ran up to us and told us to get back away from the carport because there is fire in there. Then when we finally realized it there was smoke everywhere. It was just higher than we were looking."

Someone had already called 911 and four fire departments, Oakland, Rosewood, Little River and Princeton, showed up.

A wall-mounted heater is being blamed for the fire.

One firefighter, Ashlea Grice, is her friend. Grice's fiancée, Timothy Whitley, is also a firefighter.

"She helped me out, and her fiancé," Steinhilber said. "They really did everything that they could for me. ... She went in there and was doing the best that she could to get my cats out. She was really trying for me.

"He helped me a lot with my anxiety. He sat there and he did exercises with me. He did everything that he could to try and help me calm down. I couldn't be any more grateful for them being there."

Steinhilber and Mills have received assistance from the Red Cross that provided some money for food or a hotel if needed.

"And clothing, which was really good because we lost everything," Steinhilber said. "We are still waiting on a phone call. They said someone would get in touch with us again within five days to talk about future plans, like furniture-wise and things like that.

"They helped out a lot. They gave us some blankets. They gave us some bathroom supplies. They were really, really awesome."

Steinhilber and Mills are currently staying in a camper on property owned by Mills' parents.

"We have been trying to get things out of the house to see what might be salvageable," she. "We have very few things that we are finding. With smoke damage and fire damage everything was just... ."

Steinhilber said that family and even people they do not know have helped provide clothing.