Tugboat, the cat who alerted woman during fire, found dead

ROGUE RIVER — Tugboat, the cat who helped alert occupant Carol McFadden to a house fire by his constant meowing on the night of May 16, didn't survive the fire.

His remains were found in the burned house on Thursday, said family friend Val Ford.

"He was found dead where Carol thought he might be," she said, referring to the upstairs bathroom where he liked to hang out. "We were all hoping he had survived. It would have been a good outcome to a tragedy.

"But Carol kind of knew he didn't make it."

The family had hoped the cat, fondly known as "Tug," had escaped to a nearby field during the blaze.

Fortunately, no person was injured in the rental home on the 900 block of West Evans Creek Road after it caught fire just before 11 p.m. that night. Carol McFadden was the only one home. Her son, Michael Brown, a firefighter who survived a helicopter crash last August, and his fiancee who also lived in the house were in Idaho that night.

Daniel McFadden, Carol's husband who had given her the cat after picking it up at the Southern Oregon Humane Society shelter six years ago, also was away at his work as a tugboat engineer in the New York City Harbor. The cat was named after him.

Tug alerted her to the flames, Carol said after the fire. "My cat saved my life," she said. "He saved my life. He went, 'Meow! Meow! Meow!' He was just going off."

The family and friends held a brief burial ceremony for Tug at Carol's mother's house in Rogue River on Thursday, Ford said.

"Carol doesn't want anyone bringing them a cat," she said. "She and her husband will pick one out later when they get settled."

The remains of the house were being torn down Friday, she said.

The fire caused about $300,000 in damage to the 2,500-square-foot house and another $75,000 to its contents, according to the Rogue River Fire Department. Although the exact cause of the fire wasn't determined, it appears to have been accidental, officials said.

When the fire broke out, Michael Brown had been attending a meeting of the Wildland Firefighters Foundation in Boise, Idaho. He was one of four firefighters who survived last August's helicopter crash at the Iron 44 Complex fire in Northern California.

Although he suffered two broken cheekbones, a broken nose, a dislocated jaw and a concussion in last year's helicopter crash, he returned to work with Grayback Forestry Inc. three months ago.

The firm has established the Mike Brown Recovery Fund to help the firefighter and his family recover from their losses from the fire. Brown did not have rental insurance.

Donations can be made to any Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union office in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.

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