This story might be familiar to a lot of you, since it certainly was news when it happened back in 1996. On March 30 of that year, an abandoned garage in Brooklyn caught fire. It was (allegedly) used as a crack den, and the cause of the fire was never determined. The New York City Fire Department responded quickly to get the fire under control, and while still on the scene, firefighter David Gianelli noticed something going on at the side of the garage.
A cat was carrying her kittens, one by one, from the burning building. Gianelli found two kittens just outside the garage, two kittens across the street from the garage, and observed the mother cat carrying her last kitten out. By this time her eyes were blistered shut. Her coat was badly singed, and her ears and paws had severe burns. She was seen to touch noses with each of the kittens, as if making sure they were all out. And then she collapsed.
The cat and her kittens were rushed to the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, where they were all treated for smoke inhalation and the mother cat was treated for her burns. The veterinary staff there gave her the name Scarlett, and news of the amazing rescue she performed made her famous overnight.
The North Shore Animal League received thousands and thousands of offers to adopt Scarlett or one of her kittens. The cats were kept at the clinic for three months to allow them time to recover. Unfortunately, the white kitten (pictured in the middle in the top photo) succumbed to a virus a month into its treatment, and passed away.
Eventually it was decided not to completely separate the litter. The North Shore Animal League adopted the kittens out in two pairs to residents of Long Island. Scarlett herself was adopted by a woman named Karen Wellen. Wellen had recently lost her cat in a traffic accident, and had decided to only adopt cats that had special needs. Though Scarlett regained her ability to see after the blisters on her face subsided, her injuries required special care for the rest of her life.
Scarlett passed away on October 11, 2008 due to complications from multiple illnesses. The North Shore Animal League created an award in her honor, called the Scarlett Award for Animal Heroism. Below is a video clip of different news coverage of Scarlett and her kittens, which will make you hearken back to the way TV was back in the '90s.