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Ceci the cat brought back to life after being rescued from a Big Island house fire

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When Hawai‘i Island firefighters responded to a call in Keaukaha over the weekend, the stove fire already had been put out by a police officer. But in a smoky back bedroom, a firefighter recruit made a discovery: There was an unconscious cat.

“It was like the movie ‘The Princess Bride.’ It was mostly dead,” Battalion Chief Mark Provencal said on Monday.

Joshua Riccio, a firefighter recruit with the Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation, took the female feline into the carport and put a pediatric mask over her nose and mouth to provide high-flow oxygen.

Several of the firefighters watched as the recruit tried to bring Ceci the cat back to life.

Ceci is the two-year-old pet of Cheryl Polikapu-Medeiros and her ‘ohana who live in the house on Desha Avenue.

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After some time, Provencal said the cat slowly started to open her eyes. Once alert enough, Ceci declared she had had enough of the oxygen and scooted under a car where a family member was able to corral her and pick her up.

A firefighter recruit brought Ceci the cat back to life. Photo Courtesy: Hawaiʻi Fire Department

“It was just a great outcome,” Provencal said. “All our guys were happy about it and they’re still talking about it.”

Polikapu-Medeiros said Ceci was found as a stray kitten in their backyard.

On the evening of the fire, Polikapu-Medeiros said she left to run a quick errand and left her 12-year-son at home because he didn’t want to go.

It wasn’t long after Polikapu-Medeiros left that the electrical fire broke out in the kitchen. She said her son grabbed their dog Charlie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and safely got out of the house.

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Polikapu-Medeiros said the response to the fire was fast. Hawai‘i Police Officer Roland Kuamo’o was first on the scene and knocked out the stove fire that had spread through the kitchen and into the hallway, according to the fire department.

Neighbors also showed up with hoses.

“Our community is amazing,” she said. “We’re thankful for everyone who helped us.”

After Ceci was found, Polikapu-Medeiros recalled one of the firefighters whispering to her that they didn’t know if the cat was going to make it. But Ceci apparently has not finished with her nine lives.

Polikapu-Medeiros got a kick out of a watching a whole bunch of firefighters working on the feline: “They were so cute.”

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While their kitchen is gone and the house suffered significant smoke damage, Polikapu-Medeiros said the family is fine and they are between their home and a hotel for the time being.

“At least we didn’t lose our Ceci,” Polikapu-Medeiros said.

But the family had two other cats that ran away the evening of the fire — Lucky and Darla. Darla came home, but Lucky, a big fat black cat with a camouflage collar, is still missing.

Lucky is chipped.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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