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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Chicago Man Saved by His Cat During Fire

By Ralph Zahorik http://www.suburbanchicagonews.com/newssun

A cat saved his disabled owner's life during a fire in his home this week.

John Campbell, 37, who is disabled, sleeps in a hospital bed and walks with a cane, was awakened before dawn Wednesday by his 6-year-old cat, Pepper.

"He was jumping up and down on me at 4 in the morning," Campbell said. "I tossed him off three or four times. He started walking all over my face til I got up. When I did, I could smell smoke. I saw flames in the back of my house."

Campbell grabbed Pepper and some clothes and fled his home at 609 N. Chestnut St.

"I ran out the door half naked, put him in my truck and got over to my neighbor's house."

Campbell said Pepper is a great cat. "I've had him since he was a baby," he said.

"That cat definitely saved his life," Young said. "It was persistent. He kept at him until he finally decided to get up."

It wasn't clear if there any working smoke detectors in the house.
Firefighters didn't hear a smoke alarm when they arrived on the scene, Young said.

Campbell lost nearly everything he owned in the fire except for the clothes on his back and his truck. Among the losses was his collection of Warner Brothers' Marvin the Martian figures, a Titanic movie poster autographed by Gloria Stewart and his late grandmother's bedroom set.

The two-story frame house was a total loss. Damage was estimated at $180,000 by the Waukegan Fire Department.

The fire started in the kitchen, said Dan Young, assistant fire chief. Campbell said he was told the cause of the fire appeared to be electrical.

Campbell has lived on Chestnut Street since 1994. "I lost basically everything," he said. "The fire went up the wall, burned out the rear section of the house and burned through through the main support wall."

Campbell went to North Chicago High School and has an associate degree in automotive technology. He does consulting work on automotive mechanics and works on computers. "I build computers," he said.

Another fire in a five-car garage at 20 Noll St., behind a glass store at Noll and Washington streets, at 4 a.m. Tuesday caused about $75,000 in damage, Young said.

The fire was started by a wood-burning stove in the garage. A stove vent was too close to a wall or a ceiling, Young said.

High winds that morning fanned the fire.


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