Exotic cat bites firefighter battling blaze inside home, Washington officials say

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A firefighter was bitten by an exotic African cat while battling a blaze inside a Washington home, officials said.

Around 2:40 p.m. Sunday, crews with Clark County Fire District 6 and the Vancouver Fire Department responded to a house fire call from a neighbor who reported seeing flames coming from the back of the house, Dave Schmitke, a spokesperson for the fire district, told McClatchy News.

As fire crews worked to extinguish the flames, which had spread to the attic, some firefighters swept the house, looking for any pets or people to evacuate, Schmitke said.

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One firefighter came upon a large cat, which bit right through his thick working gloves and injured his finger. Crews then called for animal control and corralled the cat inside the house since they “didn’t know what we were looking at,” Schmitke said.

The cat’s owner told officials the cat was a serval, a medium-sized African cat found in the Savannas “with tawny, black-spotted coats,” according to the African Wildlife Association. They usually weigh as much as 40 pounds, but officials estimated the one found inside the house was about 60 to 70 pounds.

The exotic cats can cost upwards of $2,000 to purchase, Mitch Nickolds, the county’s administrative director, told McClatchy.

Servals are not included in Washington’s list of prohibited “potentially dangerous wild animals,” according to state law. They are sometimes bred with domestic cats, creating “Savannah cats,” The Columbian reported.

After animal control removed the cat, crews re-entered the house to douse any remaining hot spots, according to Schmitke. The firefighter was treated at a local hospital for the bite on his finger and is expected to return to work Tuesday, Schmitke said.

The cat was not harmed, according to Schmitke.

The serval was secured by Clark County Animal Protection and Control and it has been returned to the owner, who made arrangements to make sure it can’t out and bite anyone else, Nickoids said.

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