By: Diane Phillips


Meet Meemers. Technician Andy gives some TLC as part of her intense treatment plan following being rescued from a burning building. Note her still-somewhat-sooty paws.

May is National Electrical Safety Month and the importance of keeping your pets safe around these potential risks is showcased in the story of Meemers…

Saturday, March 28 was not your typical day for the owners of Meemers. SFFD responded to a call for a house fire in the Sunset neighborhood around 1pm to discover a soot-covered feline, conscious, but struggling to breathe. Meemers, a typically spunky 7 year-old calico, escaped unburned but unfortunately sustained a substantial amount of smoke inhalation. The crew of Engine 22 administered first aid including oxygen, now typical to rescue efforts of companion animals involved in home fires, and rushed her directly to our hospital here off Judah St.

When she arrived, Drs. Jill Williamson and Dorrie Black administered swift and direct care to revive the sweet little feline. Upon presentation, the room quickly filled with overwhelming smoke smell and Meemers (initially given the name “Smokey” due to her appearance and smell) was promptly shaved and bathed to alleviate the effects of further ingesting the harmful chemical compounds contained within the soot on her fur and skin. Oxygen therapy was also immediately employed to counter carbon monoxide poisoning and hypoxia (diminished availability of oxygen to the body tissues).

AIMSS staff Jenny gets decorated after handling Meemers.

House fires not only devastate someone’s life, but health is imminently affected as a result of burning toxins within the home. According the National Fire Protection Association, in 2013, it was reported that a home structure fire occurred every 85 seconds. Pets, along with humans that are trapped within these structures ingest harmful gases, vapors, and particulate matter into their delicate lung tissues and the effects can be long-term life threatening.  Along with oxygen deprivation, the combustion of plastics, polyurethane, fiber, rubber, and paper produces cyanide gas which can cause, among other things, neurologic dysfunction, collapsed lungs, and increased chances for secondary infections. Immediate treatment is necessary to preserve life.

There are many steps that owners can take to be better prepared for the potential of a fire disaster within their home and multiple resources that highlight them. Fire decals indicating the presence of pets (how many and what kind) within your home in case of a fire are a wise first line of defense in keeping them protected. They are available through many different websites, free to little of charge, including the ASPCA and Amazon. Further information on disaster preparedness can be found at:


Dr. Karen Truong uses a blacklight to assess corneal ulcers from thermal damage on Meemers

In all, Meemers stayed under intense treatment at AIMSS for six days until she was eventually cleared to go home and comes in to see us on occasion for check-ups. She is doing well.

Speaking briefly with the owner’s mother Debby, she expressed amazement in the fact that the fire department even knew to look for Meemers, backed into the corner as she was. The devastation of all items in the apartment itself “totally charred and burnt to a crisp” highlights the good fortune bestowed on Meemers that day and also to the quick actions of her rescuer. For this, we’d like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the San Francisco Fire Department for their direct involvement in depositing her into the capable hands of our critical care team at AIMSS.


Dr. Dorrie Black and Meemers