Cat growls, alerts owner to fire outside NC home

Maready said Romeo alerted her to the flames just beyond her backyard. (WECT)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – A homeowner credits her cat, Romeo, for saving the day after a fire sparked just feet from her backyard.

Teresa Maready said Romeo started growling Tuesday afternoon, something he’s never done before.

“It was a deep, heavy growl like he was threatened,” Maready said. “He jumped down and ran and hid for a few minutes, then he went and got back in the window and he growled really deep again. When I walked out on my deck I heard crackling. When I looked harder I saw the flames.”

Maready called 911 and started spraying the easement behind her home with water to stop the fire from spreading.

“I hugged [Romeo] and I called him my hero,” Maready said. “We definitely feel like he saved the day for us prior to the firemen getting here. Once the firefighters got here, they saved the day. But Romeo’s the one that started it. He’s the one that alerted me.”


Maready doesn’t know what caused the fire, but believes it may have been a debris burn that got out of control.

Frank Meyer of New Hanover County Fire Rescue said in an email to WECT Wednesday that sometimes small fires can get out of control because the fire is left unattended or the person watching it doesn’t have a way to extinguish it if conditions change.

Meyer provided the following details about burning in New Hanover County:

Residents of New Hanover County that live outside the city limits of Wilmington or town limits of the beach towns are permitted to burn vegetative growth originating on their property. Residents of the city of Wilmington or the beach towns should check with their local fire department for specific city or town ordinance requirements. The requirements for open burning in the unincorporated areas of the county are:

A burn permit must be obtained, free of charge, from any New Hanover County fire station or from Hanover Hardware, 3508 North Kerr Avenue. Burn permits can also be found online at and selecting the ‘Burning Permit’ option. Prior to requesting a burn permit become familiar with the regulations listed on the site.

  • Only leaves, branches and other plant growth that originates on their property may be burned.
  • Burning must be at least 50 feet from any structure, unless pile size is limited to 3 feet or less in diameter and 2 feet or less in height, in which case the burning must be at least 25 feet away from any structure.
  • The fire must be attended at all times until the fire is extinguished. The person watching the fire must have a way to immediately extinguish the fire available anytime burning takes place.
  • Recreational fires must be at least 25 feet from any structure unless the fire is contained in a portable outdoor fireplace, in which case the distance is reduced to 15 feet.

“Violations of either the state General Statutes or the NC Fire Prevention Code may result in citations and fines,” Meyer said. “If the fire damages someone else’s property, the person responsible for the fire can be held financially liable for damage done by the fire.”

Meyer said those who have a burn permit should still check local weather forecasts before burning.

He said people should not conduct a burn if conditions are very dry or windy.

Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.

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