(GREENVILLE, S.C.) -- The firefighters at Belmont Fire Department in Greenville, South Carolina, rescued this stray orange kitty after finding him malnourished wandering around the outside of their station about two years ago. But now, they’ll be the first to admit that he’s actually the one who has rescued them.
Flame the Arson Cat, as he’s now appropriately named, is like their shadow in the fire house, “always there when you need him to provide that mental break,” firefighter engineer Jordan Lide told ABC News.
Fire Chief Anthony Segars was unsure about having pets in the fire station at first, but now realizes just how helpful the cat is to have around.
“My guys, they see horrible accidents, horrible things every day,” Segars said. “We’re involved in something weekly that stresses to them to some degree and he is a tremendous stress relief to these guys. He is therapeutic after a bad call comes in.”
Lide remembers the day he found Flame like it was yesterday.
“It was getting a little bit later and guys were making their way inside and I heard a meowing sound out in the grass,” he recalled. “I could see this small cat but he didn’t run. He was really skinny and malnourished. I think he was scared and timid but kind of desperate at the same time.
“I started edging my way towards him, squatting down and talking to him,” he added. “Eventually, after 15 to 20 minutes, he let me get to him and as soon as I pet him for the first time, it was game on. He started climbing all over my lap and I could tell how malnourished he was.”
Now, “He’s just part of the crew,” the chief said.
The firefighters said they’ve gotten him neutered and up to date with his shots.
Flame has also become a huge hit on Instagram, serving as the fire station’s mascot of sorts. But to the firefighters, he’s so much more.
“You don’t realize he’s therapeutic until you’re playing with him and he starts rubbing up on you. It’s a mental break,” Lide said. “We’re on shift for 24 hours running calls and working, and we see the worst side of stuff sometimes, and the innocence of him, he just wants to be loved on and played with, and then you forget you were in a bad fire.”
Lide said the loyal cat will remain in place at the fire station, patiently waiting on their return from a call.
“First he rubs up on the truck to see where we’ve been and then he follows us over to the lockers and then he’ll come and jump up on the bumper and sits next to you on the bumper,” he said.
The firefighters even call Flame “The Chief” now.
“He has his own department picture and everything,” Lide said with a laugh. “It’s something you can count on because he’s always there. Especially in the morning, he sets the tone for the day. He just gives you that sense of, ‘Take a step back, relax, take it one call at a time.’ He’s definitely a part of the guys. He’s a part of our everyday lives.”
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