Cat saves owner in NY fire

'The cat saved me,' said Carl Kryszak, 'All of a sudden he hopped on my lap. I looked up and the room was full of smoke.'

By Charlie Specht
The News Niagara Reporter

GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. — Carl Kryszak was sound asleep on his living room chair early Friday morning before firefighters rushed to his burning Grand Island apartment.

Before the first responders could arrive, Kryszak was awaken by a more diminutive hero:

His black-and-white cat, Buddy.

"The cat saved me," said Kryszak. "All of a sudden he hopped on my lap. I looked up and the room was full of smoke."

Kryszak, 63, navigated through his apartment until he saw flames on a wall between his closet and bathroom. He set Buddy on the ground outside his first-floor window and alerted the families in the 24-unit Country Glenn Apartments.

"I think he saved everybody's life, too," Kryszak said.

Kryszak then opened the apartment doors for firefighters from the Grand Island Fire Company, who extinguished the fire by 4:59 a.m. There were no injuries.

Fire detectors throughout the complex were working when firefighters arrived, though it is uncertain whether all of Kryszak's were operational.

"I told people, 'Buy a cat or a dog today.' Do it now," Kryszak said. "It will save your life.' "

Damage was estimated at $5,000, though Kryszak called it "minor" and said he and Buddy plan to stay in their home — Buddy likes the apartment.

"The minute I walk in the room, he's right behind me, that's how lovable he is," said Kryszak, a Navy veteran and former volunteer firefighter.

"Extremely affectionate. Even strangers, he'll approach them and let them pet him. It's a miracle cat."

Grand Island firefighters have seen cases of dogs — long known as man's best friend — barking their owners awake inside of a burning home.

"It's the first time I've ever heard of a cat," said Ray Pauley, a spokesman for the Grand Island Fire Company. "That's very unusual, that a cat would jump up on a guy and start getting him alerted to this problem in the house."

"Animals — it's amazing that they have another [sense]."

Kryszak has had the 20-pound "tuxedo cat" for five years. Kryszak said he never imagined, when he bought the cat, that it would save his life.

"Somebody else I talked to said, 'Well, the cat just gave one of his nine lives to the guy," Pauley said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, said Grand Island fire investigator Chuck Berlinger, though one thing is certain.

"After what I've seen my dogs do, I would never question anything about a dog or [cat]," Berlinger said.

The investigator's dogs once alerted him to two would-be thieves attempting to break into a nearby car.

"My personal opinion is dogs and cats can be very aware of what's going on," Berlinger said. "Just the way they react to our emotions and things going on They're very alert to anything that's going on around."

"He's definitely a lifesaver and a Godsend," Kryszak said. "A miracle."

Copyright 2011 The Buffalo News
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