At least a dozen cats were killed in an overnight fire at the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society, but the actions of an animal living in an apartment above the shelter gave the sad story a silver lining.
The one-alarm fire was reported at 11:57 p.m. Wednesday at the shelter, located at 2700 Ninth St., Berkeley Assistant Fire Chief Sabina Imrie said.
Firefighters arrived minutes later and extinguished the blaze by 1 a.m.
At least 12 cats died in the fire, humane society officials said.
Further tragedy was avoided in the apartment directly above the shelter, where a dog woke up its female owner to alert her to the blaze. The woman and dog were able to exit the apartment safely, Imrie said.
Fire officials notified the humane society about the fire, and several employees and volunteers responded and helped retrieve at least 15 cats and dogs from the shelter, Imrie said.
The fire caused about $500,000 in damage to the shelter, she said.
The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but authorities believe it started in a laundry dryer on the first floor, according to Imrie.
The humane society is asking for the public's help as it recovers from the fire. Monetary donations can be given online by visiting www.berkeleyhumane.org and clicking on the "donate" tab, or mailed to BEBHS, 2700 Ninth St., Berkeley, CA 94710.
Foster homes are being sought for many of the animals retrieved from the shelter. People who have space to temporarily house a dog or cat are asked to send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Humane society officials are also looking for volunteers to help clean up and repair the shelter and care for the remaining animals. People interested in volunteering can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.