Roslyn Heights house fire kills 3 cats

The Island Now

Firefighters quickly contained an electrical fire that started on the second floor of a house in Roslyn Heights on Wednesday night, but it was too late for some of the resident’s cats.

Manuela Gattasse, who teaches special education at Pace University, was eating dinner late Wednesday evening at her home at 218 Garden St. when she heard two of her 21 cats crying on the second floor. Gattasse rescues cats and searches for permanent homes for them. 

Gattasse noticed “a strange smell,” she said, “but I didn’t know what it was.”

An ambulance was first on the scene. No one was injured in the fire, but one firefighter said he saw a lifeless cat in the bedroom and another scampering away.

The bodies of three cats were recovered inside the house. 

Gattasse said one of them had been adopted and was scheduled for placement with its new owner on Thursday.  

Animal rescue volunteer Joanne Contegiacomo said seven cats had been found but 11 are still missing.  She and volunteer Heather Mancuso were conducting a search on Thursday for more cats inside the house.

When Gattasse opened the door of the bedroom she uses as a home office, she said, “The smoke almost knocked me down, it was so thick. I thought I was going to pass out.”

Gattasse’s son Andrew ran to a neighbor’s house and dialed 911, and they waited outside with their 9-year-old dog and one of the cats.

A representative from Roslyn Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 told Gattasse the cause of the fire was electrical. 

Gattasse said she believed power strips in her office would keep electrical circuits from overloading.

The house was built in 1961, according to land records on file.  

A file cabinet containing documents and paperwork from work was recovered, but there was extensive damage from flames and water to extinguish the fire, a Roslyn Fire Department spokesman said.

The actual cost of the damage will be determined by State Farm Insurance, which insured Gatasse’s home.

Gattasse said some cats may have escaped when firefighters ran into the house. She is asking neighbors for help recovering them.  

To adopt one of the rescued cats, call Joanne Contegiacomo at 516-652-8008.

By Catherine Teevan

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