Tenants mourn pets lost in fire

Christopher DiVittorio/Courtesy
The two hybrid cats of gradute student Christoper DiVittorio sit in a trunk. The two died in the fire at the apartment on 2441 Haste St. on Now. 18.

When UC Berkeley graduate student Hongxu Liu received a call from his roommate about the fire in his Haste Street apartment building, his first worry was the safety of his dog.

Liu immediately asked his roommate Corey Meadows — who was in the building at the time — to break down the door to his apartment and rescue Liu’s -7-month-old Chihuahua, Andre.

“I don’t know if Andre was hiding or was passed out, but Corey couldn’t find him,” Liu said. “Corey stayed in there before he couldn’t breathe anymore.”

In the wake of the devastating Nov. 18 fire that gutted the apartment building at 2441 Haste St. and led to the eventual destruction of countless personal belongings, at least four tenants have also lost their beloved pets.

Though graduate student Christopher DiVittorio was home at the time of the building’s evacuation, he left his two bobcat-house cat hybrids in his apartment because he, like many residents, underestimated the severity of the fire.

“I left my cats in the apartment because I really didn’t expect the entire building to burn down,” DiVittorio said. “It is something I will regret for the rest of my life.”

DiVittorio said he brought the sibling bobcats home after doing graduate work in Baja California. Though wild and large, the felines — named Pele and Peli — were friendly and followed DiVittorio around like dogs.

DiVittorio said he still has recurring dreams of finding the cats.

“This has been the hardest part of the fire for me,” he said.

UC Berkeley senior Christopher Felty also lost a cat in the fire — a 6-year-old Siamese mix called Courage, named for her personality.

“I left the military with depression and was recommended to get a pet and Courage, my cat, has been (an) anchor and focal point for me for six years,” Felty said. “She traveled with me to every place I lived and was always near me.”

Felty was also not in the apartment at the time of the fire, having left Friday afternoon. He promised Courage he would be back on Sunday, but Friday turned out to be the last time he saw the cat.

“She would not have been able to escape,” he said. “Now with the apartment demolished, she really is gone.”

Pets were not technically allowed in the building according to the terms of the lease, but the manager of the building generally did not mind them, said tenant and UC Berkeley senior Cynthia Young.

“He even told us that as long as he didn’t see us blatantly with pets, he didn’t really care,” she said.

Because her particular apartment was not damaged by the fire, UC Berkeley senior Vanessa Ridley maintained hope that her red-eared slider turtle Chubby was still alive.

Hoping to save Chubby, Ridley asked the building’s owners  to allow her or the fire department to enter the building before demolition began, but she was denied the request.

“(Firefighters) just need to reach in (through the window) to grab him,” she said. “The owners just basically laughed at me.”

The owners could not be reached for comment.

The historic apartment building that was home to these animals was partially demolished this week, although the number of pets it housed remains unknown.

Liu said he will get another dog, but will always remember the puppy whose life was cut short.

“One of my best friends took Andre’s brother Kaiser,” Liu said. “They were supposed to have a reunion.”