VERO BEACH, Fla. — With smoke pouring from the air conditioning vents and flames filling her daughter's bedroom, Pam Dizazio made it out of her burning home and took eight of her loved ones with her Wednesday afternoon.
They were all of the four-legged variety: four cats, two ferrets, a turtle and a 103-pound mutt named Precious, aka Nerner.
"I was watching TV when I saw the smoke," said Dizazio about the fire in the 4200 block of 69th Street, Vero Beach. "I put the ferrets in a carrier, got down low and put them out on the back porch. I was barely able to get out myself."
Dizazio lost track of Precious and the cats when she escaped and called 911.
As firefighters handled the blaze, Indian River County Animal Control officers arrived and found Precious, who was wandering in the backyard.
The officers as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, were searching the property to find the loose cats.
"They're indoor cats," Dizazio said. "They don't know what's happening."
The state Fire Marshal's Office will investigate the cause of the fire, which seriously damaged a bedroom and attic, said Brian Burkeen, Indian River County Fire Rescue assistant chief. No preliminary cause was available Wednesday.
Dizazio said she was the only person home when the fire happened at 2:40 p.m. Her daughter, Margaret, was running an errand and returned home to find fire engines surrounding the home here family has lived in for nine years.
The North Treasure Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross met with the Dizazios about a place for them to stay Wednesday night.